Eryn Wells

Netscape Meteors

I went on a small journey the last couple days to find the original Netscape Navigator “meteors” animation. This one has a special place in my head and heart because it is so clearly connected to my memories of discovering the web as a kid. Here it is in its original 60×60 px glory:

I started out doing some web searches that turned up several versions. One was promising but far too big: 400×400 px. Worse, after some shoddy resize attempts, the “pixels” had become rectangular.

This would not do.

I continued searching, hoping to find the original animations. I found someone’s mirror of Netscape 5.0 on Github. Then I found some very old versions of Mozilla on a Mozilla FTP server. Sadly, the animations had been stripped out of these archives. :(

Frustrated with hitting several deadends, I complained to Tess and wondered aloud if anyone might have the original images stashed away somewhere. She quipped that if anyone did, it would be Jamie Zawinski.

A little later, I posted about it on Mastodon.

And wouldn’t you know it, a friend tagged @jwz asking if he had it, and a few moments later I got a reply from Jamie himself.

If you don’t know, Jamie Zawinski is well-know for working on several important software projects in the ’90s. He worked on Netscape Navigator, built and maintains Xscreensaver, and several other things. Nowadays, he owns and runs DNA Lounge in San Francisco.

There are a lot of neat bits of web browser history on the page he linked – totally worth a quick look over – but most important to the quest at hand, it had that Netscape meteors loading animation.

The original one has some small artifacts on the left side of frame 10 that render as red and orange pixels. These bothered me enough that I made a version that replaces those pixels with ones that match the surrounding pixels. Here’s the modified 60×60 one and a bigger 240×240 px one, for good measure: