ViolaWWW, first developed in the early 1990s, was the first popular
web browser(though to a limited audience) which, until Mosaic, was the most frequently used web browser for access to the World Wide Web.
Gillies and Cailliau in "How the Web was Born", offer an extensive history of the development of "Viola". "Viola" was the invention of
Pei-Yuan Wei, who at the time was a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
His interest in graphically based software began with
HyperCardwhich he first discovered in 1989. Gillies and Cailliau quote Pei-Yuan Wei on this discovery: "HyperCard was very compelling back then, you know graphically, this hyperlink thing, it was just not very global and it only worked on Mac...and I didn't even have a Mac" (p.213). Only having access to X terminals, he (in 1990) created the first version of "Viola" for them: "I got a HyperCard manual and looked at it and just basically took the concepts and implemented them in X-windows [sic] " (p.213).
He released "Viola 0.8" in 1991, and then after graduating began to develop "Viola" even further while working with "Berkeley's Experimental Computing Facility" as well as at a few start ups (p.213).
The World Wide Web
At this time, as Gillies and Cailliau indicate, Pei Wei's major goal was to create a version of "Viola" for the Internet:
:"what Pei Wei wanted to do next was run it over the Internet. X-Window was a Unix-based system so it had TCP/IP built in and the Internet was a logical step. The question was how to transport his Viola pages across the Internet. He was on the verge of an independent invention of networked hypertext. 'And that's when I read Tim's
World Wide Web' he explains 'The URLwas very, very clever, it was perfectly what I needed. He dropped Tim a line saying that he was thinking of writing a browser for X. 'Sounds like a good idea,' said Tim in a reply posted to www-talk on 9 December. Four Days later, Pei Wei told www-talk that he had made a browser" (p.214)."
Created in 1992, it was the first browser to use authoring technology such as embedded scriptable objects, stylesheets, and tables. According to Gillies and Cailliau "Viola was to become the first X-browser to make any impact, but even his early versions went down well at
CERN...As this ViolaWWW developed, it was to set the standard for everything to follow it..." (p.214). Ed Kroll also highlighted it in his popular 1992 text, " Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog".
As ViolaWWW developed, it began to look more like HyperCard:
:"It had a bookmark facility so that you could keep track of your favourite pages. It had buttons for going backwards and forwards and a history feature to keep track of the places you had been. As time went on, it acquired tables and graphics and by May 1993 it could even run programs." (p.214).
It was based on the Viola toolkit, which is a tool for the development and support of visual interactive media applications, with a multimedia web browser being a possible application. Viola ran under the
X Window Systemand could be used to build complex hypermedia applications that were beyond HTML3.0 (the latest version of HTML at that time).
Ahead of its time
Viola was interesting because it was the first web browser to have the following features:
While ViolaWWW opened the door to the World Wide Web, its limitations (including the fact that it was only used on X Window System) could not compete with Mosaic, the browser which brought the world wide web into the mainstream [http://www.livinginternet.com/w/wi_mosaic.htm] . According to Freedman in the "Computer Desktop Encyclopedia", "Mosaic was 'the' application that caused interest in the World Wide Web to explode. Originally developed for
UNIX, it was soon ported to Windows" (p. 629).
Microsoft v. Eolas and ViolaWWW prior art
Because of ViolaWWW, Microsoft was allowed a retrial in February 2005 in the Microsoft v. Eolas case. The original ruling would have cost software giant Microsoft $521 million in damages.
Eolas Technologiesand the University of Californiasued Microsoft for allegedly infringing patents with the Internet Explorerweb browser. The case revolved around a patent held by Eolas and the University which claims to cover ways of making other software work seamlessly with web browsers.
Microsoft had wanted to show the court ViolaWWW as
prior art, since it was created in 1993 at the University of California, a year before the patent was filed. Microsoft had also suggested that Michael David Doyle, the founder of Eolas' and a former University of California researcher, had intentionally concealed his knowledge of ViolaWWW when filing the patent claim.
List of web browsers
*Freedman, Alan. "Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, 9th Edition." New York: Osborne, 2001.
* Gillies, James & Robert Cailliau. "How the Web was born: The Story of the World Wide Web." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
* [http://viola.org/ The Viola Home Page]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4314989.stm Court stays $521m Microsoft fine] ,
BBC News, March 3, 2005.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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