Let’s face it, you use your web browser every day whether it’s on your desktop at work or Googling something on your phone whilst you’re waiting for a train.
Whatever browser you’re using whether it’s Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Safari, the browser is probably the most used and important piece of software on our devices, apart from Candy Crush and Facebook of course 😉
So what I’d like you to do is stop for a moment whilst you’re reading this blog post on your favourite browser, and just think to yourself, why the hell is Safari called Safari, or why is Firefox called Firefox?
It’s certainly not the first time that I’ve wondered where browsers got their names from, so I did a bit of research into it.
So without further ado, here’s a little history behind the names of the most common and famous browsers out there today. Enjoy!
Ah good ol’ Firefox. Lot’s of people love Firefox and it has won praise from developers and users alike. There’s quite a following for the browser, which is now a major player in Web browser arena. Heck, there’s even a Firefox subreddit dedicated to the beloved browser.
Firefox hasn’t always been called Firefox though, it’s had a few names over the years and was first called Phoenix back in September 2002, which would eventually become known as Firefox in later releases, but started out with a lot less features than it has today.
Several months went on getting the browser to a point where it could be released by polishing existing features and fixing bugs, but then, Mozilla ran into some issues regarding the name of the browser in April 2003.
What happened was, a company called Phoenix Technologies had also developed an open-source browser but owned the trademark for their name. So, the browser had to be renamed to Firebird.
Mozilla then ran into more issues with the name. Firebird was also the name of an open-source relational database project, so Mozilla had to change the name yet again, until finally in February 2004, they settled on Firefox as the browser’s name.
Firefox by the way is another name for the Red Panda but according to the Mozilla Firefox Brand FAQ’s, they came up with the name because ‘It’s similar to Firebird. It’s easy to remember. It sounds good. It’s unique. We like it. And we weren’t able to find any other project or company even remotely similar to a web browser that uses the same name.”
I have to agree with their choice of name here, I think it’s great name for a browser and the logo is equally cool.
There was a codename vote for Chrome during its early development but none of them actually made it into the final name because apparently all the names were terrible. According to Glen Murphy, Chrome’s design leads chose the name ‘Chrome’ because they liked fast cars and ended up using the name in the final project launch because, in his own words:
“During development, we’d all come to love the product deeply, and new names had a hard time breaking and bettering the associations we’d already formed with the codename.”
“As our lead did, people associated it with speed – shiny fast engines and cars.”
“In design terminology, ‘chrome’ refers to the non-webpage parts of the browser’s interface – the toolbars, tabs and buttons – because our design philosophy was “Content, not chrome” – putting our focus on minimizing the amount of browser UI present, we felt it cheekily appropriate to name the browser ‘Chrome’.”
Personally Chrome is my favourite, not just because it’s quick, the developer tools in Chrome are signficantly better than those of other browsers. I used to use Firefox for a while and I thought the developer tools were great when plugins such as Firebug came out. However, when Chrome came on the scene, it was quicker and the dev tools were fully integrated and easier to use.
I have haven’t had a chance to look at Firefox quantum as yet, so please do let me know if you think it’s better than Chrome. Looking at this Firefox Quantum vs Chrome article though, it does look like Firefox Quantum delivers on its speed promises.
There wasn’t any reliable information that I could find which would explain why the name ‘Safari’ was chosen. It does seem to fit well with the names of Apple’s Operating Systems such as “Panther”, “Lion”, “Snow Leopard”, “Tiger” but there’s no certainty that they’re linked.
The only decent resource I could find on the subject was this post by Don Melton who started the Webkit and Safari projects at Apple but even in this post, Don reveals that he still doesn’t know who came up with the name ‘Safari’.
If anybody out there does know however, let me know in the comments below, I’d be intrigued to actually find out!
I think “Internet Explorer” is the only browser whose name actually describes what the product actually does!
And I think this was very important around the time when it was released because most people were only just becoming aware of what the Internet actually was.
Although Internet Explorer has been largely mocked or ignored by techies, the browser once played a major role in the early days of the web and even today, despite support for earlier versions being discontinued by Microsoft, it is still in widespread use.
The codename for Microsoft’s new browser was Project Spartan, which is quite an exciting name and invokes images of dominance and strength. So it was quite a surprise at the time when Microsoft announced that their new browser would be called ‘Edge’, which is rather unexciting and so is the logo if you ask me as it’s not a million miles away from the old Internet Explorer logo (just without the halo).
So how did Microsoft dream up the name ‘Edge’?
Well for starters the browser’s name appears to reference its graphic rendering engine, which is called EdgeHTML. But according to Tech Radar, Joe Belfiore (Microsoft’s VP of Operating Systems Group) said: “The name means the edge of consuming and creating, being closer to the modern capabilities of the Web. This is for note-taking, reading, and consuming content. Developers will care about the blazing fast speed and that it is a universal app.”
Make of that what you will. I think it’s a good browser, has good support in terms of HTML5 standards (it’s neck and neck with Firefox, and ahead of Apple’s Safari) but has some catching up to do with Chrome. I think because Google dominates web search, it is able to promote Chrome to more users than Microsoft can with Bing. For example, every time you visit Google with Edge, you see an ad for Chrome.
So I think Edge is on the back foot a little bit, but personally I never underestimate Microsoft as they’ve been a dominant force in computing for decades.
The only snippet of information on the naming of the Opera browser was available via archive.org. Here’s what I found:
“The reasons the name “Opera” was chosen are several. For one, “Opera” is known as the opera all over the world. London, Paris and Moscow all have Operas, and it’s one thing that has long historical roots in almost the entire world. Secondly, the Opera is associated with quality and high standards – you never hear of Opera singers who go on a drunken spree… Thirdly, the Opera is fun. (Or at least, it’s meant to be for the people who don’t have prejudices against it for being snobby and upper class-only.)”
So there you go, I hope that has satisfied your curiosity, it certainly has for me. If not then there is further reading on the the history of web browsers and a great article on the history of web browsers by the Guardian which I recommend reading.
Also there’s an interesting read over at Ariya Hidayat’s blog which contains some of the historical context around the history of browser names.
Sure there are ‘other’ web browsers out there, but these are the most widely used I would say. Correct me if I’m wrong of course or if I’ve missed one off that should be on this list.