Spyglass, Inc.

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Spyglass, Inc.
Traded as SPYG
Industry software
Fate acquired by OpenTV
Successor OpenTV
Founded 1990
Founder NCSA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Defunct 2000
Headquarters Champaign, USA
Products Internet browser intellectual property

Spyglass, Inc. (former NASDAQ ticker symbol SPYG), was an Internet software company based in Champaign, Illinois.

The company, founded in 1990, was an offshoot of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and created to commercialize and support technologies from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). For several years, it focused on data visualization tools, such as graphing packages and 3D rendering engines.[1]

In May 1994, Spyglass licensed NCSA's Mosaic browser, with the intent to develop their own Web browser.[2] However, NCSA's development effort had resulted in different features, user interfaces, and codebases for each of its major platforms: UNIX, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS. Spyglass therefore created its own Mosaic codebase in which most source code and all features were shared between platforms. Spyglass Mosaic's codebase was then licensed to Microsoft and became the basis for their Internet Explorer.

In addition to the major desktop platforms, Spyglass ported Mosaic to other systems including Nintendo 64 for the SharkWire Online system.[3]

Browser wars[edit]

Main article: Browser wars

Netscape Communications Corporation, co-founded by Marc Andreessen, released its flagship Netscape Navigator browser in October 1994, and the company soon became the web browser industry leader. Microsoft recognized the potential of the web, and wanting to get into the browser game as soon as possible, decided to license an existing browser rather than build one from scratch.

After Microsoft lost out to AOL for BookLink's browser in November 1994, their talks with Spyglass progressed.[4] In 1995, Microsoft licensed Mosaic from Spyglass as the basis of Internet Explorer 1.0, which was released as an add-on to Windows 95 in the Microsoft Plus! software package. The deal stipulated that Spyglass would receive a base quarterly fee for the Mosaic license plus a royalty from Microsoft's Internet Explorer revenue.[5]

Microsoft subsequently bundled Internet Explorer with Windows, and thus (making no direct revenues on IE) paid only the minimum quarterly fee. In 1997, Spyglass threatened Microsoft with a contractual audit, in response to which Microsoft settled for US$8 million.[5][6]

All versions of the Internet Explorer created before Internet Explorer 7 (released October 18, 2006) acknowledged Spyglass as the licensor for the IE browser code. The About window on these versions contained the text "Distributed under a licensing agreement with Spyglass, Inc."

Web server technology[edit]

Spyglass created and marketed the first commercially supported web server. This product, variously marketed as the Spyglass Server and Server SDK, became available in July 1995.[7] Before that date, the only web servers available were free and unsupported.

The Spyglass Server was also notable for being the first web server to include an application programming interface that allowed server-side applications to run in the server's process.[citation needed]

Spyglass did not offer their server as a retail product, instead licensing it to original equipment manufacturers to distribute. The largest licensee was Oracle Corporation.

End of Spyglass[edit]

On March 26, 2000, OpenTV bought out Spyglass in a stock swap worth $2.5 billion. The acquisition was completed July 24, 2000. In the deal, they received both Device Mosaic, an embedded web browser, and Prism, a content delivery and transformation system.[8]


  1. ^ Sink, Eric (15 April 2003). "Memoirs From the Browser Wars". Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Spyglass, Inc. Form S-3 filed July 19, 1999". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "SharkWire Online(TM) by InterAct Allows Gamers To Get Online, In-Touch and Out Ahead" (Press release). Hunt Valley, MD: InterAct Accessories, Inc. PR Newswire. May 12, 1999. Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ Wallace, James (1997), Overdrive, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-18041-6.
  5. ^ a b Elstrom, Peter (22 January 1997). "MICROSOFT'S $8 MILLION GOODBYE TO SPYGLASS". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Thurrott, Paul (22 January 1997). "Microsoft and Spyglass kiss and make up". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Spyglass, Inc. Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1997". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Boulton, Clint (27 March 2000). "OpenTV Buys Spyglass". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 

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