Arachne (web browser)

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Arachne in VESA mode

Arachne in CGA mode
Arachne GPL web browser using its VESA and CGA display modes, respectively
Developer(s) Michal Polák and contributors
Initial release December 22, 1996; 21 years ago (1996-12-22)
Stable release
1.97 / April 4, 2013; 5 years ago (2013-04-04)
Preview release none [±]
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written in C
Operating system DOS, Linux
Type Internet suite
License GNU GPLv2+

Arachne is a full-screen Internet suite containing a graphical web browser, email client, and dialer.[1] Originally, Arachne was developed by Michal Polák under his xChaos label, a name he later changed into Arachne Labs. It was written in C and compiled using Borland C++ 3.1.[2] Arachne has since been released under the GPL as Arachne GPL.

Arachne primarily runs on DOS-based operating systems, but includes builds for Linux as well.[3] The Linux version relies on SVGALib and therefore does not require a display server.


Arachne supports many file formats, protocols and standards including video modes from CGA 640×200 in monochrome to VESA 1024×768 in high color mode (65,536 colors). It is designed for systems that do not have any windowing systems installed.[4]

Arachne supports multiple image formats including JPEG, PNG, BMP and animated GIF. It supports a subset of the HTML 4.0 and CSS 1.0 standards, including full support for tables and frames.[5] Supported protocols include FTP, NNTP for USENET forums, POP3, SMTP and Gopher. Arachne includes a full-fledged TCP/IP connection suite, which has support for some dial-up and Ethernet connections. However, Arachne has no support for JavaScript,[6] Java[6] or SSL. Arachne can be expanded with the use of add-ons for such tasks as watching DivX movies, playing MP3 files, IRC chat, RSS and viewing PDF documents.

The first version of Arachne with a known release date was 1.0 Beta 2, which was released on 22 December 1996. The final and official version by Arachne Labs was 1.70R3 for DOS (released 22 January 2001) and 1.66 beta for Linux (released 20 July 2000). While there have been several more DOS versions,[7] Linux development lay dormant until 24 May 2008 when a beta version 1.93 for Linux[8] was released. The current DOS version, maintained by Glenn McCorkle, is 1.97 as of 4 March 2013. In 2006, there also was an experimental DPMI port of Arachne by Udo Kuhnt, named DPMI Arachne.


Arachne supports a limited subset of stylesheets and HTML. Known support as of version 1.93:[5]

Style Aliases Options
color #rgb or #rrggbb or a color name
background-color background #rgb or #rrggbb or a color name
font-size %, px, pt
font-style i[talics]
font-weight b[old]
text-decoration font-decoration u[nderline]



xChaos software licensed the source code of Arachne to Caldera UK in 1997. Caldera UK added Novell's dialer and TCP/IP stack, animated GIFs, printing on a multitude of printers, JavaScript (beta), added an optional on-screen keyboard for mouse and touch panel usage (SoftKeyboards), completely changed the design of the browser (customizable), implemented their own support for frames, using Allegro for graphics, and ported it to compile as a 32-bit protected mode extended DOS application (utilizing DPMI using DJGPP, a GNU compiler for DOS),[9] while Arachne is a 16-bit application. This program was sold as DR-WebSpyder; the name was to associate it with DR-DOS, which Caldera owned at the time.

DR-WebSpyder also became an integral part of Caldera's Internet Operating System (IOS) for thin clients, originally called Novell Internet Operating System (NIOS). NIOS was originally conceived at Novell's European Development Centre, UK in 1994 by Roger Gross. Gross originally proposed a thin client web browser operating system as part of what would become known as Novell's Embedded Systems Technology (NEST) initiative to create embedded system applications that connect intelligent devices to NetWare networks. The new browser operating system comprised 32-bit ports of Novell's existing technologies including DR-DOS, Novell's dialer and TCP/IP stack plus licensed third-party components including the Kaffe Java virtual machine (JVM), Allegro video graphics library and Mosaic web browser. Caldera subsequently dropped Mosaic in favor of Arachne.

In 1998 Caldera also distributed a free demo version of DR-WebSpyder on a bootable fully self-contained 3.5-inch floppy. This was in fact the DR-WebSpyder OS, minus the Kaffe JVM, but configured as loosely coupled components in which the DOS shell COMMAND.COM was replaced with the web browser. On 386 PCs with a minimum of 4 MB of RAM, the floppy would boot a minimal DR-DOS 7.02-based system complete with memory manager, RAM disk, dial-up modem, LAN, mouse and display drivers and automatically launch into the graphical browser, without ever touching the machine's hard disk. Users could start browsing the web immediately after entering their access credentials.

DR-WebSpyder achieved commercial success including being embedded in an internet set-top box as part of a satellite internet access solution.[10]

Later, when Caldera had transferred DR-DOS to its branch company Caldera Thin Clients, which became Lineo, the browser was renamed Lineo Embrowser.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rakitin, Jason "Review: Alternative Web browsers Archived November 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine." Network World, 27 October 1997
  2. ^ Arachne Labs
  3. ^ "Section 508 Alternative Browsers" National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  4. ^ Stutz, Michael "Czech Browser Won't Do Windows Archived December 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine." Wired, 6 June 1997
  5. ^ a b "Arachne HTML support". FreeDos. 2008-07-10. Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  6. ^ a b Rakitin, Jason (27 October 1997). "Review: Alternative Web browsers". Network World Fusion. Archived from the original on 5 October 2001. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  7. ^ Arachne file archive Archived June 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Glenn McCorkle (2008). "Arachne v1.93;GPL for Linux". Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  9. ^ "Is Arachne the same program as Caldera Webspyder?" Arachne Frequently Asked Questions
  10. ^ "Caldera's DR gets OnSatellite of love". Retrieved 2018-02-13. 
  11. ^

External links[edit]