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Lesson 1.4
Browser Wars & Web Security

Lesson 1.4
Browser Wars & Web Security

LEARNING GOAL: The Basics of Web History

Students will understand how the Internet evolved from a classified government research project into a world wide resource with the help of highly educated teachers and students.

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wd_lesson1.4_browserwarsWhen the World Wide Web went live on August 6, 1991, a number of college students around the world began building their own browsers as a way of reaching this shared space called the World Wide Web. Eventually, most of those early student browsers went away and left us with more familiar browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

But not everyone on the World Wide Web had good intentions. There were some who watched those moving packets of information (remember TCP from Lesson 1.3) and found ways to cause trouble. These were the hackers. As these troublemaking hackers grew in number, American children became vulnerable and the government stepped in to pass a couple of important laws.

This lesson is an introduction to those early web Browser Wars, the way hackers spy on information packets through the TCP, and what the government eventually did to help protect children from inappropriate content on the web.



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mobile-app-iconAll Web Design I students must create an account on Penzu and find the digital writing classroom by following the directions below. You have 25 minutes to get through all the steps.

Step #1 – To create an account, open these directions. If you already have an account, simply log into your account, create a new journal, then find the settings wheel and add the appropriate code below:

Period 2 – Class Code: 3D471

Period 5 – Class Code: C7B7B

Period 6 – Class Code: C4A8B

Step #2 – Once you are logged in, go into the class, then write one paragraph (100 words) about something you learned from the last three lessons (1.1, 1.2, or even 1.3). Please give your post the title: Now I Know. Be as descriptive as you can and explain something that makes a little more sense than it did before this class.

Step #3 – When you have finished writing your post, look over the grading rubric so that you know how your writing is going to be graded, then proofread what you’ve written before you submit.

Step #4 – Once the teacher has seen that you have successfully submitted a post (check to make sure), take some time to explore the w3schools website. This is a complete HTML tutorial with places to try out new code. After all students have created an account and are in the class, those who do not finish in time will be asked to submit their work after 25 minutes. If you complete everything early, you may be asked to assist other students who are still stuck on an earlier step.


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Throughout the semester, all students are required to write several online posts. Do not forget your passwords or lose your login information. Write it down somewhere. In your phone. On your name card. Anywhere that you won’t forget it or lose it. If you forget how to log into your account, the teacher will NOT be helping you to create a new account. And after you create a second account, you will automatically lose a letter grade on your first writing assignment. If you create a third account, you will automatically lose two letter grades, and so on. Does this make sense?

One Post Due every 4 1/2 weeks (two topics) written at 3.0 Quality or Better


1. What are the six locations you need to be able to find on a world map?

2. What is the meaning of the phrase “sleeping giant”?

3. The period from 1945 to 1991 is known as what?

4. Explain the difference between a network and the Internet.

5. Another name for a rule is a what?

6. Name the four schools that first connected to the ARPANET.


During the last class, we were introduced to Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who, on August 6, 1991, logged onto the Internet at a nuclear research building and created a public space for information called the World Wide Web. On this World Wide Web, he published the first official “web” page that people could see if they had access to the same space that he was using.

netscapeSoon after August 6, college students all over the world began trying to build programs that could access the World Wide Web space. These programs were called browsers and were some of the earliest examples of what we now know as Firefox or Google Chrome or Safari. A browser is a program that you use to access the World Wide Web.

Some of the earliest browsers are listed here:

1992: ViolaWWW (University of California, Berkeley) – 1st “organized” browser

1992: Erwise (Helsinki University in Finland) – 1st “graphic” browser

1993: Mosaic (University of Illinois) – 1st “popular” browser

1994: Netscape NavigatorMosaic designer leaves UI and builds his own browser


ieDuring the 1990s, Netscape Navigator was the most used and the most popular browser for the World Wide Web. Almost everyone who visited the web, including designers who were building new websites, used Netscape Navigator. It was easy to use and easy to, well, navigate. But in 1995, the biggest computer technology company in the world, Microsoft, decided to build their own browser and automatically install it on all new computers. The browser that Microsoft designed was called Internet Explorer.

By the end of the 1990s, Microsoft was completely in charge of browser technology. Before Netscape went out of business in 1997, they did two important things. First, they made their browser program free to the public. And second, they created a new business called Mozilla, which was a combination of “Mosaic” (their very first browser from college) and “Godzilla” (which represented something bigger). Seven years later, in 2004, Mozilla launched a new browser called Firefox, otherwise known as Mozilla Firefox.

Even years later, the famous “Chrome” browser was built when Google hired some of the designers from Mozilla Firefox. In other words, the most popular browsers you use today have roots in the Mosaic browser that was originally designed by students at the University of Illinois.


vivaldiThere are plenty of good browsers out there aside from Firefox or Chrome, but most of us get comfortable with what we know. Below is a list of some other browsers you might know and some you might not:

1. Safari – Originally built by Apple (Steve Jobs) to compete with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The Safari browser would eventually come with all Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh computers).

2. Opera – This is the oldest browser in web history (started in 1994), but the reason you’ve probably never heard of it and never used it is because Opera is primarily a European browser that began in Norway.

3. Vivaldi – For those who spent years on the Opera Browser and were looking for something new, the Vivaldi Browser is growing more popular because it is even more personalized than Chrome.

Here are some Browser Statistics to help you see how things have changed.


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roberttappanmorrisWith all of this browsing of the World Wide Web, the Internet community had a new problem: hackers. As more and more information passed across the Internet through the World Wide Web, it was broken into small packets and sent to a specific destination (TCP/IP), leaving some people to wonder if maybe it was possible to read the information on the packets or just manipulate the packets before they reached their destinations.

For example, some hackers would use a Routing Attack. The idea behind a Routing Attack was to shut down enough packet routes and lead just a few random packets through the hacker’s computer system. As the packets passed through the new route, the hacker could look for important information like emails, phone numbers, or personal data, then SPAM your inbox, your voicemail, or even your personal credit rating. The hacker might even attach malicious codes to a packet and then send it on its way back to the final destination.

One of the most famous hackers in history is now a teacher and professor at MIT. In 1988, when the Internet was growing popular, but the World Wide Web had not yet been created, a man by the name of Robert Tappan Morris sent a “worm” through the network to expose its weaknesses. He got into a lot of trouble with the government, but he proved a very important point: Transmission Control Protocol was never designed with security in mind.

Topic #2HACKER DEMO #1: Ten Packets

One student will be given 10 packets containing 10 words that will be reordered and written on the board by another student on the other side of the classroom. Each of the other students will serve as part of the route those packets can pass along. When all of the packets arrive and the words are written in their correct order, the class should be able to see how easy it is for a hacker to manipulate a route as well as the packets.

NOTE: The terms “virus” or “trojan horse” or “worm” are all different ways to describe the work of hackers who pass along “malicious” codes or “malicious” information along the route of a packet. And all of this together is called “malware” because it has a devious or misleading purpose. That’s why it’s so important for your computer to have an Anti-Virus program like Norton or McAffee that can “sniff” packets for malware before they are accepted on your computer when you are connected to the Internet.

Topic #3HACKER DEMO #2: Personal Packets

Most of the information packets that travel over the Internet are about 1280 bytes, or MTU (Maximum Transmission Units), which means they can hold a lot of text. But the smallest a packet can ever be is 68 bytes MTU.

Now open a new Notepad Document and save it as “email.txt” in your “misc” folder. Type your email address into the document and check the file size like you did during Lesson 1.3. See if you can put enough personal information–like phone numbers, parent’s names, other email addresses, etc–into the “email.txt” until it has more than 68 bytes. All that a hacker needs is one packet with just the right amount of personal information about you.

And that’s when they can start predicting your passwords.

NOTE: The term “encryption” refers to secretly coding those packets so that they cannot be read by anyone if they are captured along a route on the Internet. When you submit personal information to someone else, like a credit card number or a social security number, you should always look for the HTTPS:// because that means any information you submit will be encrypted and unavailable to a hacker.

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