Chances are your web browser is open all day, every day. Whether it’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Safari, the browser is the single most important piece of software most of us use. Given its central place in our lives, some history seems in order. If you’ve ever stopped browsing long enough to wonder why Safari is named Safari or where in the world the word “Mozilla” comes from, we have some answers for you.
Martin Beeby, a developer evangelist at Microsoft, has put together a nice little history of web browser names. Some are obvious — Internet Explorer came about because it was “a name that gave people a clear idea of what the product did” — some are less so, like Opera, which was apparently chosen because, among other things, “the Opera is fun.”
With the exception of Opera and IE, none of Beeby’s name origin stories come directly from the companies behind the browsers, so take all of these with a grain of salt. For instance, no one seems to know the exact origins of “Safari”, though the Beach Boys’ album seems like a reasonable guess — surfing the web, Surfin’ Safari… get it? The WebKit blog is named Surfin’ Safari, which might lend some credence to that story, but the name also nicely ties in with the notion of exploring the wild and connotes some of the same images as “explorer” and “navigator”.
Perhaps the least obvious name in the bunch is Firefox’s parent company Mozilla. Beeby cites a well-known story that the name that was derived by combining the words that were its original goal — “Mosaic Killer.” Webmonkey has heard another version of that story that claims the word “Godzilla” was the inspiration for “Mozilla,” a Godzilla-like force that would destroy Mosaic.
Beeby doesn’t offer any stories for less well-known browsers, like Konqueror, which, as the story goes, was going to “conquer” what IE and Netscape had “explored” and “navigated” respectively. The allusion didn’t really pan out, but, when Apple came along and ported KHTML to form WebKit, the developers did name their early efforts after a famous conqueror — Alexander.
For more details, and to learn where the names Firefox and Chrome come from, be sure to read through Beeby’s post.