The secret history of "about:jwz", "about:mozilla" and the Netscape Throbbers.

I realized recently that while I have written about the history of the about:authors URL, I have never explained the history of the about:jwz easter egg. Well, I guess it's been long enough, so now it can be told.

Read on...

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19 Responses:

  1. Jason Cthaeh Thompson says:

    I have been dotcomrades with you for YEARS on lj, and it wasn't until you posted this article and I looked at your page source, and found out just what you've done. wow. i feel like i rubbed up against some sort of celebrity.

  2. Mark says:

    Reading that made me feel happy. Thank you.

  3. Catherine says:

    I'm curious now--where DID the compass icon come from originally? Just another in-house design?

    • jwz says:

      It was one of the contest entries, and the (internal) votes didn't even name it one of the top 5! Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the other entries, so I don't even have any record of who created it...

  4. Aristotle Pagaltzis says:

    You have, actually, though that was from the other end of the story.

  5. Joe says:

    So, the N is to blame for that word. I always kinda thought the term originated from the porn industry, like everything else on the Internet.

    'The animation depicted the "N" expanding and contracting, thus explaining why these animations became known as throbbers.'

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throbber

    • jwz says:

      The file in the source code where the "N" image lived was in fact named "throbber".

    • 205guy says:

      Maybe it's evident to everyone, but the bezel shadow changes as the N "throbs." That gives it the effect of being illuminated by a moving light source, which is the same idea as the meteor one.

      • Ben Brockert says:

        No, it gives the effect of moving in and out. There is no moving light source that could give those shadows.

  6. jwz says:

    Funny archaeological footnote that didn't really fit with the rest:

    I couldn't find a copy of the spinning-tiles "Mosaic" animation online anywhere! And of course the source code is long gone. So I downloaded the 0.9 Unix executables, opened one of the binaries up in Emacs, and scrolled through it until I saw something that looked like an XPM file, then re-constructed the frames by hand with a keyboard macro.

    BUT! It turns out that most systems' a.out formats intern strings, meaning if there were any duplicate lines -- like, say, "2 m #FFFFFF c #FFCC99" from the color table, or even in a few cases the scan lines themselves -- subsequent occurrences were omitted from the file. So that was a problem with the BSD, Sun and HPUX binaries, and the OSF binaries were even more heavily compressed than that. But luckily the AIX and SGI binaries didn't intern strings in the data segment, so that made it easier.

    Digging around inside a.out files and editing them directly with Emacs was actually my first job when I went to work for Lucid.

    Anyway, I suspect that at this time, that anim-gif up there is the only extant copy of that animation.

  7. Joe Crawford says:

    Some fun usages when you do a reverse image search for the compass.

    • Sheilagh says:

      Alas, that search query expired. What was the original URL of the search?

      • Joe Crawford says:

        Irritating. TinEye encouraged me to register (it's free!) so that my searches there would not be temporary. I misunderstood what they meant by "permanent URL links" which, for registered users "can be bookmarked or shared with friends." Apparently it means they stop working after some indeterminate length of time.

        To reproduce what I meant: put "http://www.jwz.org/doc/about-compass-anim.gif" into tineye.

  8. Kyle says:

    Those aren't meteorites. Until impact, they're meteors.