Published July 23, 2023, 7:10 p.m. by Courtney
Safari is Apple’s web browser that was released back in 2003 with Mac OS 10.3 Panther. But you might be wondering, “what web browser did the Mac use before Safari was created?” Well they used Netscape Navigator which was the most popular web browser at the time thanks to a very special capability where text and graphics appeared on the screen simultaneously as the webpage loaded. Now that may not sound like a very special feature today, but earlier web browsers would stay completely blank until 100% of the web content loaded; which meant it could take up to 3 minutes to load just one webpage.
Netscape Navigator served as the Mac’s default web browser until 1998. And what happened next was quite fascinating. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he found the company in much worse financial shape than he expected, discovering they were just 90 days from bankruptcy. And those desperate times called for desperate measures. Steve Jobs initiated talks with Microsoft, the arch nemesis of Apple in those days, and tried working out an investment deal. You see, Apple had a long-running lawsuit that claimed Microsoft copied the look and feel of Windows from the Macintosh operating system. This gave Apple some leverage in negotiations by offering to drop the lawsuit if Microsoft invested in Apple. But there was another factor at play, Microsoft was in the middle of an antitrust fight over its forceful promotion of Internet Explorer which was tarnishing Microsofts image with consumers and could lead to an antitrust lawsuit from the US government. So it was in Microsoft’s interest to negotiate a deal with Apple in order to keep them around as a competitor.
As the deal took shape, five specific terms were agreed upon by both parties. First, Microsoft had to make a 150 million dollar investment in non-voting Apple shares. That meant Microsoft didn’t have any say in decisions Apple made despite being a large shareholder. Second, both Apple and Microsoft would establish patent cross licensing. So any existing or future patents created within five years would be shared between both companies. Third, Microsoft would commit to creating Mac versions of Microsoft Office for a five year period, with the same number of major releases as Windows. Fourth, Microsoft and Apple would collaborate on Java compatibility to strengthen its viability as a competitor. Fifth, was that every Mac had to ship with Internet Explorer as the default web browser. And not many people were happy about it. But the blow was softened when Jobs clarified that users could change the default browser back to Netscape Navigator which still shipped with every Mac.
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