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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Ten years ago software developers at the University of Illinois released Mosaic, which used graphics and simplicity to open the World Wide Web to the masses.

What had been the domain of scientists and computer geeks dominated by cumbersome language and technical complexity became simple enough for nearly anyone to use.

Mosaic was released in April 1993 by the school's National Center for Supercomputing Applications as free software. It became the foundation for today's Web browsers, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Communications' Communicator. Mosaic's lead developer, Marc Andreessen, became one of Netscape's founders and took some of his university colleagues with him.

"It was an accelerator for the whole Internet," said Larry Smarr, the former director of the computing center. "It sort of took the Internet to the next level of capability."

Before Mosaic, access to the Internet and the World Wide Web was limited to text. The new software brought a way to integrate images and sound with words.

Andreessen and his colleague Eric Bina had a clear goal when they started - a browser that was easy to install, simple to use and would work with different computer operating systems.

"We knew it didn't have to be hard to run this thing," Bina said.

The first version of Mosaic worked only with UNIX systems. Windows and Macintosh versions followed later in 1993.

Once word about Mosaic's simplicity circulated, users couldn't get the software fast enough, turning it from a creation of computer geeks to the beginning of an information revolution.

The NCSA Web site recorded more than 1 million downloads within a year of Mosaic's release. New users eager to surf the Web downloaded 70,000 copies of the software monthly.

Bina, who helped write the program, says he doesn't often think about his role in Web history. But he noticed the difference Mosaic has made when he used his computer to make plans to attend his 20th high school reunion.

"I thought it was amusing that the entire machinery used to organize my 20-year high school reunion was the result of things I was working on at the time of my 10-year reunion," he said.

On the Net: Mosaic history

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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