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MacOS 9/Classic Support Q&A - Updated October 15, 2009

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Are there any modern web browsers for MacOS 9?

For those with MacOS 9, it is a fairly safe assumption that most have Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, as it was the default browser when the operating system was current. MSIE 5 for the Mac isn't the worst browser ever released, and it supports some CSS for "modern" website designs. However, it renders web standards poorly, often requiring webmasters to spend a great deal of extra time "hacking" code to get their designs to display properly or at least acceptably.

As more-and-more Mac users migrated to MacOS X and upgraded to Safari or Firefox, most webmasters began to ignore MSIE 5 for the Mac. When Microsoft discontinued support for MSIE 5 for the Mac on December 31, 2005, and no longer offered it for download starting January 31, 2006, it was the "final nail in the coffin" for the browser. However, MSIE 5.1.7, the last version offered for MacOS 9, is still available for download in some corners of the web.

When this Q&A was previously updated on January 22, 2008, there were no browsers under active development for MacOS 9, but as first spotted by a helpful reader on site sponsor Operator Headgap Systems Mac tips, there now is a web browser under active development for MacOS 9 again!

Dubbed "Classilla" -- "a portmanteau of Classic (for the classic MacOS) and Mozilla" -- this project declares that it:

Is bringing back web browser support to your classic Macintosh -- built on WaMCom, a port of Mozilla to classic Macintosh systems, using the same technology underpinning the popular Firefox browser. It's completely free and it's open source, and it's standards-compliant. Use it without cost or restriction; or, if you've got the skills, hack it and make it your own. Classilla brings your wonderful old Power Macintoshes back to life and back online.

The project website even provides a roadmap for future development. Looks quite promising.

There also are three other browsers -- no longer under active development -- that are better choices than MSIE 5 for MacOS 9.

Prior to Classilla, the last browser developed for MacOS 8.5-MacOS 9.2.2 was iCab 3.0.5, which as first noted by the always excellent LowEndMac, was discontinued on January 1, 2008. iCab describes their product as "the taxi for the Internet" and promotes that it offers a variety of modern features -- including "tabbed browsing", "pop up/pop under" advertisement blocking, "cookie" management, and more. iCab 3.0.5 renders standards-compliant CSS so that many "modern" site designs work properly. It is shareware, and should be registered for US$20/EUR15.

Another fairly "modern" browser for MacOS 8.6-MacOS 9.2.2 is WaMCom 1.3.1, "Web and Mail Communicator", a modestly enhanced and bug fixed version of Mozilla 1.3.1. This browser was last updated for MacOS 9 on July 23, 2003, but supports tabbed browsing, and due to better standards support of CSS, is more likely to render websites correctly than MSIE 5.

Released on February 18, 2003, Netscape 7.0.2 is a bit older than WaMCom 1.3.1, but still newer than MSIE 5. This is the last version of Netscape released for MacOS 8.6-MacOS 9.2.2. It tends to be a bit more "bloated" and slower than MSIE 5, but like WaMCom, provides better CSS support and is far more likely to render websites correctly. It features tabbed browsing as well.

Go ahead and download Classilla 9.x, iCab 3.0.5, WaMCom 1.3.1, and Netscape 7.0.2. The vast majority of the time Classilla 9.x or iCab 3.0.5 probably should be your browser of choice, but the other two browsers may come in handy as well. All four may have trouble with some websites, but each is far more likely to work with more websites than MSIE 5.

It is hoped that this is helpful to keep your MacOS 9 system productive for a while longer. If Classilla remains in active development, your MacOS 9 system may remain productive online for years to come.

For more on keeping a MacOS 9 system productive, please visit Operator Headgap Systems. OHS specializes in Macs capable of running MacOS X and MacOS 9/Classic as well as compatible hardware and software.

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