Fossil Properties: Test Cases in Browser X


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Ten screenshots of early web browsers undergoing compatibility case testing on various operating systems.

Images: Mona Ulrich
Preface & book design: Pat Shiu

Color prints with vellum cover,
1st Edition of 20 Prints

Abridged from Preface:

“In the fall of 2018, Mona Ulrich conducted an extensive study on the compatibility of This book presents ten screenshots, selected out of over a thousand, from Mona Ulrich’s compatibility analysis of prominent browsers from the early days of the internet. In this select collection are screenshots of eight different releases of Netscape and Internet Explorer, as tested across five operating systems.


Ulrich’s project examined 17 browsers for their ability to render basic HTML elements, prevalent image formats, as well as their support of Java and Netscape Plug-Ins that were popular during this period. The documentation resulting from this research is of particular pertinence to the conservation and re-staging of early net art pieces. Ulrich’s extensive spreadsheets and screen captures document the capabilities and limitations of these browsers across various platforms, serving as a valuable reference for how works of net art were likely to have appeared and would have behaved at the time of their creation and circulation.

Despite being barely a glimpse into the full dataset, the ten screenshots presented in this zine illustrate a key point that underlies the study. By casting a light on the (in)competencies and idiosyncrasies of browsers past, these images remind us that we cannot speak of content on the Web without equal consideration for the medium that frames their access: the browser. “

Mona Ulrich is a Masters student at the Conservation of New Media and Digital Information Program at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. She conducted this study in the Fall of 2018, during her internship with Rhizome, an institution for born-digital and net art based at the New Museum in New York, under the consultation of Rhizome’s Preservation Director, Dragan Espenschied.


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