Did you know that Oracle was once in the browser business, with a
product that potentially rivalled Netscape Navigator and Internet
Explorer? Strange as it may seem, Oracle once had their own browser,
known as Oracle
Launched back in 1996, Oracle Powerbrowser was Oracle's own web
browser that was Netscape 1.1 compatible, came with its own built-in
personal web server, and introduced a number of unique features that
tied up with Oracle's then-current craze around all things internet.
Nowadays, hardly anyone remembers it, but you can still
find copies of it around the internet and it's interesting to look
back at what it was all about.
The basic Powerbrowser interface resembled the 1.0 release of
Netscape Navigator, had basic support for tables and images, and came
with side panels that listed the user's bookmarks and history of pages
Each set of three panes was a separate window in an
MDI application, and you could open multiple windows to view multiple
The preferences page let you enter proxy details, set
up your homepage, change timeouts, and maintain other settings.
And there was even a built-in internet search feature,
a kind of 'Google bar forerunner'.
Oracle Powerbrowser also came with a personal web
server, accessed by pressing the 'Server' button on the toolbar. The
application let you set up a personal home page, and also came with a
wizard for creating database queries against ODBC datasources.
These queries were then run using Oracle Basic (as
used by another old Oracle tool, Oracle Power Objects) and described
using 'Database Markup Language'. According to
this guide to
"DBML Extension Overview
There are some rather large Web sites on the Internet. There are
some even larger ones, however, that are not accessible by the
public Internet community because they reside within corporate
networks. One such site that I have worked with currently has over
300 HTML pages. Making sure that those pages contain current
information by editing the HTML is a nightmare. A better way to
administrate is to pull information out the database and dynamically
create HTML pages from that.
Using a database with HTML requires that some extensions be added.
Oracle's extensions are known as the Database Markup Language (DBML).
These extensions allow for Oracle Basic (the same Basic engine
supplied with Oracle Power Objects) to be embedded into HTML
documents. New methods specific to PowerBrowser have been added, and
the ones specific to Power Objects have been removed.
In addition to the ability to access databases and embed BASIC
within HTML documents, DBML also allows for tighter integration with
the desktop using Microsoft's object linking and embedding (OLE).
Going over the DBML extensions in detail is beyond the scope of this
chapter. As PowerBrowser is released, the best place to go for the
DBML specification will be http://www.oracle.com."
An early forerunner to ASP, PHP and JSPs. Another
interesting Powerbrowser feature was Network Loadable Objects,
something that looks very much like a forerunner to ActiveX.
According to this press
"Designed from the ground up to meet the demands of
corporate users and developers, Oracle PowerBrowser 1.5 is a
full-function intranet client that incorporates state-of-the-art Web
navigation, a drag-and-drop Personal Server, built-in Java and Basic
scripting capabilities, and support for third-party applications
called Network Loadable Objects (NLOs) ...
... Network Loadable Objects (NLOs): Oracle
PowerBrowser allows users to extend the browser's capabilities by
downloading and executing third-party applications called NLOs. For
example, PowerBrowser can execute video conferencing or existing
client/server applications from within any Web page automatically.
NLOs are installed transparently from secure servers and are also
compatible with Netscape 2.0 Plug-ins."
file from an early beta describes NLOs and another feature called
"With PowerBrowser, Oracle is introducing two new
technologies which enable more sophisticated methods of exploring
the Web. Using Network Loadable ObjectsTM (NLO) and Client-Side
Processing (CSP), developers can now exploit the true potential of
Network Loadable Objects provides a framework for running third-
party network-resident applications within PowerBrowser. NLOs allow
applications like Adobe PDF viewers, Java applets and VRML scripts
to run natively in PowerBrowser.
Client-Side Processing gives developers a way to create and execute
OS-specific program modules on the Web client. With CSP, developers
write code which fully integrates the features of the client
operating environment with PowerBrowser.
To help Web developers get started, Oracle provides Software
Development Kits (SDKs) for both of these architectures, complete
with documentation and sample applications."
Lastly, a separate application called
Tool was provided along with Powerbrowser for authoring web pages.
In the end though, as we all know, Oracle eventually
dropped Powerbrowser and, from looking at the
limitations' page of this
review, the main reason was that it was r-e-a-l-l-y r-e-a-l-l-y
"The single largest factor for this is an amazing
lack of speed -- PowerBrowser is one of the slowest browsers on the
market. Despite a solid selection of features, PowerBrowser still
lacks many critical features found in other browsers, including tags
like font size and super/subscript; FTP, news, and receive mail
support; HTML 4.0 and Dynamic HTML support; pre-configured helper
applications; and much more."
"If PowerBrowser had received a much needed speed
infusion and beefed up its supply of features, it could have had a
chance to become a serious competitor to the best browsers on the
market; however, with the decision to discontinue development and
support for the browser, it's hard to recommend PowerBrowser as a
serious alternative for users of Netscape or Internet Explorer.
Pros: Client side processes, tables and frames support, other cool
Cons: Extremely slow, lacks many critical features relative to other
Still, it was a decent attempt at a
Netscape-compatible browser, and at that point it made sense to bring
out a browser to complement the move towards Oracle 8i and tools such
as Powerobjects. The scripting support is not a million miles away
from what we've actually got now, and the Network Loadable Objects are
directly related to Java applets and ActiveX objects. All very
interesting - does anyone from Oracle remember using it? Any