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Lynx: early text-only Web browser

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Introduction

Lynx is one of the earliest web browsers, and it appears to be the oldest browser currently in use and development (2014). The first web browser was designed by Tim Berners-Lee, and was released in 1991; when the World Wide Web was launched. The problem with Berners-Lee's browser: is that it was only designed to work on a specific platform of Unix. Therefore, an effort was made to design browsers that would expand the amount of platforms that could access the web. One of these browsers was Lynx: developed by three students at Kansas University in 1992:

  1. Charles Rezac
  2. Lou Montulli
  3. Michael Grobe

In the early 1990's, the majority of computers that connected to the Internet used the Unix operating system; Windows and Macintosh machine did not provide extensive networking features at that point in time. Therefore, Lynx, and other early web browsers, were designed to work on Unix. Early versions of Lynx were also compatible with the VMS operating system: which was used by the VAX, Alpha and Itanium based computers. Lynx is currently (2014) compatible with the majority of operating systems; it is packaged with a wide range of Linux versions.

Features

Lynx is a text-only browser - all of the earliest web browsers were text-only - therefore, Lynx will render a webpage in a drastically different way to modern web browsers. The drawback to being text-only: is that Lynx cannot adequately serve websites with a strong focus on providing multimedia content. The advantage is that Lynx can quickly load the textual content of webpages, and is ideal for Internet users using a dialup content, or, have a low download limit. However, it has to be said, that most modern browsers have the option to 'turn off' images.

Lynx, by default, has a black background colour, and text is rendered in white: which is the opposite of most other browsers, which have a white background and text is rendered in black. Lynx does support HTTP cookies, but does not support Flash or Javascript: some websites require the support of Flash or Javascript, therefore, Lynx will not be compatible with such websites. Lynx provides support for users who are visually impaired: it provides a text-to-speech (TTS) system and a braille terminal that can display braille characters.