My mom maintained the computer network at an engineering firm where she had access to all the old computers that were being replaced by newer, faster ones. I inherited a number of hand-me-down computers from my mom, but the first one of any real signifance to me was my 486. It came with Windows 3.1, the first operating system I'd used that had a graphical user interface. It had a 50mHz processor, 32 MB RAM, a 500 MB hard drive, and a 9600-baud modem. This was to be the first machine I used to connect to the Internet, which in those days was not necessarily capitalized.
As every American over thirty surely remembers, America Online used to send out 3.5-inch floppy disks (and later CDs) to every address in the country, each offering a free first taste of the Internet. Anyone with a land line and a computer with a modem could install this software and access the Internet for free.
At this time there were only a handful of web browsers in existence. Tim Berners-Lee created WorldWideWeb, the first web browser ever, in 1990. A few years later Mosaic was released, becoming the first browser to mingle text and images together on a single page. But it was Netscape that became the dominant browser of the early nineties, its success fueled largely by AOL's relentless distribution of the software.
Netscape enjoyed near-total domination of the browser space for a time, but Microsoft was fast on their heels. In 1996, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 3 with support for JavasScript and the market's first CSS implementation. (CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets, is a story for another blog post, but in essence it's a design language for describing the visual appearance of content in the browser. Before CSS, web design basically sucked.) The release of this new version of IE marked the beginning of the so-called Browser Wars, and a dark time in the history of web development. As these two companies battled for dominance of a growing market, they made technology choices that diverged from World Wide Web Consortium standards, effectively forcing web designers to optimize for one of the two browsers.
When the Mozilla Firefox web browser arrived on the scene in 2004, web enthusiasts rejoiced. Internet Explorer had ruled the browser landscape for nearly a decade, and Firefox promised an end to the tyranny. Firefox was the firsts popular open-source browser, setting an important precedent for the browser landscape of today.
In 2008 Google released Chrome, a fast and lightweight new browser based on the open-source WebKit engine used in Apple's Safari browser. Chrome's initial competitive advantage over Firefox and others was speed: It started up in less time, and loaded web pages faster than other browsers. Since its release, Chrome adoption has steadily increased, and today it's the most widely used web browser in the world.
Earlier this year, npm raised some capital and became a private company based in Oakland, California. The company will continue to develop and maintain the open-source npm tool and the public registry in perpetuity, but will soon be releasing a commercial version of the registry for individuals and companies wishing to maintain private source code.
As for me, I've just joined the team at npm. Today is my first day. I wrote this blog post to help my friends and family better understand what I do for a living. I hope it worked.