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] It became most known for its version of the Mosaic web browser.


In May 1994, Spyglass licensed NCSA's Mosaic browser for several million dollars, 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.[citation needed]

Spyglass offered a 30-day trial version for download, but did not actually sell the product to end-users. Instead, it licensed the code to re-sellers that delivered either an unmodified Spyglass Mosaic (e.g., O'Reilly and Associates) or a browser based on the Spyglass codebase (as did CompuServe, IBM and Ipswitch).[3] Among the browsers produced under license using Spyglass Mosaic's codebase was also Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

In addition to the major desktop platforms, Spyglass ported Mosaic to other systems including Nintendo 64 for the SharkWire Online system.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[6][7]

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 a commercially supported web server for Unix and Windows NT, variously called Spyglass Server and Server SDK, was announced in March 1995[8] and became available in July 1995.[9] Like the Netscape server that was already on the market, the Spyglass Server included an application programming interface that allowed server-side applications to run in the server's process. The two server platforms differed in their approach to security, with Spyglass using the Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (SHTTP), while Netscape used its own Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).[8] Spyglass did not offer their server as a retail product, instead licensing it in volume to original equipment manufacturers, as it did with its browser.[8] The largest licensee was Oracle Corporation.[citation needed]

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.[10]


  1. ^ Sink, Eric (15 April 2003). "Memoirs From the Browser Wars". Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Booker, Ellis (29 Aug 1994). "Spyglass to commercialize future Mosaic versions". Computerworld. 
  3. ^ Ayre, Rick; Mace, Thomas (12 March 1996). "Just Browsing". PC Mag (Ziff Davis). 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ Wallace, James (1997), Overdrive, John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-18041-6.
  6. ^ a b Elstrom, Peter (22 January 1997). "MICROSOFT'S $8 MILLION GOODBYE TO SPYGLASS". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Thurrott, Paul (22 January 1997). "Microsoft and Spyglass kiss and make up". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Booker, Ellis (27 March 1995). "Web servers move in different directions". Computerworld. 
  9. ^ "Spyglass, Inc. Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1997". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  10. ^ Boulton, Clint (27 March 2000). "OpenTV Buys Spyglass". Retrieved 9 February 2011. 

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