Think you know web browsers? Take this quiz and prove it.

The browser isn't as glamorous as it used to be, but it's still among the most powerful and reliable tools of the Information Age. On the 25th anniversary of Mosaic – remember that? – take our quiz on the history and technology of browsers and see how much you really know.


slide 1 browser collage
Google / Christina Tynan Wood

Test Your Knowledge

Pity the poor web browser. Once the undisputed heavyweight champion of Internet applications, it's been largely supplanted now by monolithic social media platforms, mobile technologies, and smartphone apps.

What happened?

In a nutshell, we simply take it for granted now. The web browser may have lost the coolness quotient it sported in, say, 1996. But for desktop surfers, it is still the most efficient way to mine the Internet for information.

Here's our 10-part quiz on the ubiquitous browser. Click on through to find out how well you really know a tool you use every day.

internet browser http

What does HTML stand for?

  • Hardcode Modular Linux
  • Heuristic Media Layer
  • Hypertext Markup Language
  • Handsome Macedonian Lawyers
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Answer: Hypertext Markup Language

HTML is one of the basic building block technologies for that stratum of the Internet we once called the World Wide Web. It's a computer language system that allows the web browser – the software at your end of things –  to understand and render instructions from a remote server anywhere in the world. HTML is a markup language, rather than a programming language, and it allows for better presentation and organization of online content. The invention of HTML allowed web pages to move away from the text-only interface now seen only in dated science fiction and incorporate interactive features – hyperlinks, most significantly – and eventually other elements like images, sounds and animated cat GIFs.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: HTML, along with the rest of the World Wide Web system of standards, was invented and developed by British engineer Tim Berners-Lee, then a contractor with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a.k.a. CERN.

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The very first web browser ran on what computer system?

  • Macintosh Classic
  • NeXT Computer
  • IBM PC
  • Commodore 64
slide 5 nextcomputer

Answer: NeXT Computer

The estimable Berners-Lee, generally acknowledged as the creator of the World Wide Web, developed the first browser in 1990 on the NeXT Computer system, which was among the state-of-the-art workstation machines of its day. (Shown is the very computer he used to do it.) Cleverly dubbed WorldWideWeb – later renamed Nexus – the original program functioned as both a browser and an editor. Berners-Lee and his collaborators gradually evolved the program so that it could work on UNIX and MS-DOS, as well.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: NeXT was founded in 1985 by a humbly endeavoring fellow named Steve Jobs. You may have heard of him.

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Toho Film Company / Christina Tynan Wood

Which two main competing systems faced off in the famous Browser Wars of the 1990s?

  • Internet Explorer vs. Netscape Navigator
  • Mozilla Firefox vs. Google Chrome
  • Apple Safari vs. AOL Explorer
  • Mothra vs. MechaGodzilla
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Answer: Internet Explorer vs. Netscape Navigator

By 1995, the World Wide Web was making a major splash in mainstream culture, kicking off the commercial showdown known as the Browser Wars – sometimes called the First Browser Wars. Netscape Navigator, which evolved from the original Mosaic multiplatform browser, had upwards of 80% of the market in 1996. Over the next five years, Microsoft stomped across the field like a Dothraki horde, leveraging the ubiquity of its Windows operating system to convert everyone to it.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: Internet Explorer peaked in 2002, with 96% of web browser market share. Microsoft Edge has since replaced Internet Explorer as the default browser on Windows 10 since 2015, and lost its King-of-the-hill status to Google Chrome.

What upstart open-source browser was initially codenamed Phoenix?

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Opera
  • Midas
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Christina Tynan Wood

Answer: Firefox

Officially released in November 2004, the open-source Firefox 1.0 browser was the culmination of years of work by thousands of volunteer programmers. Originally code-named “Phoenix,” it was part of the larger Mozilla project, an open-source initiative for developing the next generation of browsers, development tools and other software. Firefox promised a meaner, leaner, and faster Internet experience than Microsoft's Internet Explorer and was downloaded more than 100 million times in less than a year.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: “Midas” was an early offshoot of the original WorldWideWeb browser.

slide 10 url from dreamstime

What does URL stand for?

  • Unified Response Locator
  • Uniform Resource Locator
  • Universal Reset Logarithm
  • Unitard Robot Lobster
slide 11 bernerslee

Answer: Uniform Resource Locator

It's strange to remember this, but before the dawning of the World Wide Web, the appearance of “http” or “www” on your display just meant the cat got on the keyboard again. Now, these ubiquitous strings of letters are recognizable around the world as elements of the Uniform Resource Locator, better known as a web address. Berners-Lee developed and established the URL standard at the very beginning, along with the rest of his World Wide Web system. The structure of the URL remains largely unchanged to this day.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: Berners-Lee later said he regretted using periods in the domain name (“”) and should have used slashes instead (“www/whatever/com”). In some parallel universe, the dotcom bubble was the slashcom bubble.

connection network blockchain artificial intelligence ai

The World Wide Web was almost named … what?

  • Mine of Information
  • The Information Mine
  • Information Mesh
  • All of the above
cloud computing network connections - IoT - internet of things

Answer: All of the above

According to FAQ documents at the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), Berners-Lee had a few other options in mind when he first set out to name his global hypertext system. He considered “The Information Mine” and “Mine of Information” as sly in-jokes coded in the acronyms (“TIM” and “MOI”). He settled on “World Wide” to emphasize the global and decentralized nature of the system, and “Web” to suggest the actual mathematical form of this new kind of network.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: Merriam-Webster cites the year 1990 as the first year “World Wide Web” entered the English lexicon. Also new that year: “cryptocurrency,” “spam” and “geek out.”

slide 14 chrome logo

Google Chrome currently owns what approximate percentage of global browser market share?

  • 6%
  • 60%
  • 66.6%
  • 3.1415%
slide 15 chrome android tabletop

Answer: 60%

According to the most recent available figures from Net Applications, an independent analytics firm that tracks Internet technology statistics, Google Chrome currently has about a 60% share of the desktop browser market. Firefox is running a distant second at 13%, tied with former heavyweight champ Internet Explorer – now a legacy system – also at around 13%. Microsoft's newest browser, Edge, clocks in at 4%.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: The numbers suggest that, when Microsoft switched to the Windows 10 Edge browser in 2015, most former IE users toggled over to Chrome instead.

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Computer History Museum / Christina Tynan Wood

What was the major innovation of Mosaic, the first popular web browser?

  • Italic fonts
  • Inline images
  • Infrared colors
  • Intransitive verbs
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Answer: Inline images

In January 1993 – 25 years ago last month – Marc Andreessen and a team of collaborators released the first iteration of their Mosaic browser. Mosaic wasn't the first web browser, but it was the first to popularize the concept among the general public. The program featured several innovations, but most importantly Mosaic enabled the display of text and images together on the same page. Previously, you could access images from a hyperlink, but the pictures popped up in a separate window.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: For those keeping track at home, the official 1.0 release of Mosaic came a few months later in April 1993.

browser logos

What is the oldest web browser still in active use and development?

  • Lynx
  • Viola
  • OmniWeb
  • Methuselah
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Answer: Lynx

The text-based web browser known as Lynx is also celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Originally developed by students at the University of Kansas, Lynx was first designed to distribute campus information. The Lynx 2.0 release in 1993 qualified the system as a full-fledged web browser. It's still in circulation, too. As of December 2017, it is being maintained and developed by a small group of volunteers.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: Thanks to its pared-down text-only design, Lynx has been adapted for braille displays and text-to-speech programs for the visually impaired.

htc u11 life comparison2

What was the first photograph ever posted online?

  • An image of the Statue of Liberty
  • A picture of a spiderweb
  • A promotional photo of a pop band
  • A cute kitten
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The Cernettes / Christina Tynan Wood

Answer: A promotional photo of a rock band

Details on this bit of Web lore are somewhat fogged by the mists of time, but Internet legend holds that the first picture ever uploaded to the World Wide Web was a shot of Les Horribles Cernettes, a novelty pop band founded by female employees at CERN. The photo was edited in the first version of Photoshop and posted by none other than Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web system of standards and protocols.

Double Secret Bonus Trivia: Among the song titles in the band's physics-inspired oeuvre: Microwave Love, Liquid Nitrogen, My Sweetheart is a Nobel Prize, and the novelty dance hit … Surfing the Web.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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