If you spend more than a little time in your Web browser, you probably take notice of upgrades. The hottest Web browser, Mozilla Firefox, has again created considerable buzz, and this time only for an incremental upgrade, from version 3.0 to 3.5, released June 30.

Firefox, a product of Mozilla Corp., has a storied heritage and is a favorite of many Internet users as much for this as for its speed and features.

Firefox can trace its lineage back to the first widely used graphical World Wide Web browser, Mosaic, released in 1992 and responsible more than anything else for the explosion of the Internet into popular consciousness in the mid-1990s. Development of Mosaic stopped in 1997, but anyone curious can still give it a spin by downloading it from its original developer, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In 1994 Mosaic spawned Netscape Navigator, whose popularity prodded Microsoft to release Internet Explorer a year later. The browser war of the late 1990s caused Microsoft antitrust headaches when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in 1999 that Microsoft had illegally thwarted competition by among other things providing Internet Explorer with copies of Windows installed on new PCs and preventing PC makers from including competing browsers. Before the popularity of broadband, downloading another browser for many users wasn't worth the time.

In fairness, Internet Explorer had surpassed Netscape in quality by then, with the latter having grown fat and slow. Just after it started declining, Netscape was purchased in 1998 by America Online, which slowed and eventually stopped development of it. Internet Explorer enjoyed its peak popularity in 2002 and 2003, with an estimated 95 percent of the market.

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Reid Goldsborough  |  Contributing Writer
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at reidgold@comcast.net or www.reidgoldsborough.com.