The Evolution of the World Wide Web

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Introduction

To begin with, we rely on the internet for almost everything. Right from managing our money, searching for jobs, representing ourselves professionally as well as keeping contact with family and friends across the country or even across the world. It is also used to research, learn, share information, personally as well as professionally.

The use of the internet for businesses is basically for collaborating across offices and even across the hall. While it handles their financial transactions in seconds, communication for them with the help of the internet is instantaneous. Even the local and federal governments rely on the internet to manage their daily operations.

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was introduced as a medium for sharing scientific and research documents. It was specifically used by government organizations and academic institutions to give and receive information. But with the passage of time, it evolved and crossed the limits defined for it. The change that has been observed in the world of internet is quite distinctive to not notice.

Looking at all the transformation the internet has had and considering its existence has just been barely for fifty years, and the world wide web being thirty, but if either were to disappear, modern business would nothing but cease.

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About the World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is a network of online content that is formatted in HTML and accessed via HTTP. The term refers to all the interlinked HTML pages that can be accessed over the internet. It is technically all the web pages, videos, pictures and other online content that can be accessed via a web browser. The world wide web, or WWW, was first created as a method to navigate the now extensive system of connected computers. It was designed by Tim Berners-Lee through a rudimentary hypertext program called Enquire.

The WWW is what most people think of as the internet. But as a matter of fact, the internet is the underlying network connection that allows us to send an email and access the world wide web. Web earlier was a collection of text-based sites hosted by organizations that were technically able enough to set up a web server and learn HTML. Since then, it has only continued to evolve the original design, and now includes many other useful elements like social media and user-generated content that requires minimal technical skills to use.

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Origin of the World Wide Web

The WWW was introduced and originated by a contractor named Tim Berners-Lee who worked with the European Organization for Nuclear Research developed Enquire-a rudimentary hypertext program. This program was designed in a way in order to make information readily available to users. It also focused on allowing a user to explore relationships between different pages by clicking to get to a different section of a website.

By 1990, Berners-Lee with the help of Robert Cailliau developed the skeletal outline of the internet, including a web browser and web server. He designed a very basic outline which only consisted of a series of simple text pages, difficult to navigate, and inaccessible to most people. But all that changed in 1993, with the release of the Mosaic web browser. This web browser enabled users to explore multimedia online. This year also saw the introduction of the first modern search engines.

Since early search engines were primitive and basic and especially manual, it primarily indexed only titles and headers. But in 1994 WebCrawler began to “crawl” the net, which indexed entire pages of active websites. As a result, this technology opened the door for more powerful search engines and made it possible to easily search through vast amounts of connected information. In this same year, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help further develop ease of use and accessibility of the web. He also made it a standard that the web should be available to the public for free and with no patent.

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History of WWW

It all started back in March 1989 when Tim laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called Information Management: A Proposal. With this document, he had a vision of where the web would have a much broader application. Since there were already millions of computers being connected together through the fast-developing internet. He realised they could share information by exploiting an emerging technology called hypertext.

But Tim’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. In fact, it was termed as vague but exciting. The web was never an official CERN project, the company Tim worked for, but he managed to get time from his superiors to work on it in September 1990. By October of 1990, Tim had written the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s web and which may also appear on parts of your web browser:

  • HTML: HyperText Markup Language. The markup formatting language for the web
  • URI: Uniform Resource Identifier. A kind of “address” that is unique and used to identify to each resource on the web. It is also commonly called a URL
  • HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the web

Tim Berners-Lee also went on to write the first web page editor/browser (WorldWideWeb.app) and the first web server (httpd). By the end of 1990, the first web page was presented on the open internet, and in 1991, people outside of CERN were invited to join this new web community. Steadily, as the web began to grow, he realised that its true potential would only be unleashed if anyone, anywhere could use it without paying a fee or having to ask for permission. To make this possible, Tim and others advocated to ensure that CERN would agree to make the underlying code available on a royalty-free basis, as long as the internet would function. This decision was announced in April 1993 which sparked a global wave of creativity, collaboration and innovation never seen before.

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Expansion of WWW: The 3 Phases

Web 1.0 – The World Wide Web (1990 – 2000)

  • Remain limited mostly to static websites
  • Mostly publishing / Brochure-ware. Limited to reading only for the majority
  • Proprietary and closed access
  • Corporations mostly, no communities
  • HTTP, HTML

Web 2.0 – The Social Web (2000 – 2010)

  • Publishing as well as Participation
  • Social Media, Blogging, Wikis
  • RSS – Syndicate site contents
  • Rich User Experience
  • Tagging
  • Keyword Search
  • AJAX, JavaScript Frameworks (jQuery, Dojo, YUI, Ext Js etc), XML, JSON

Web 3.0 – The Semantic Web (2010 – onward)

  • Mostly Drag n Drop
  • Highly mobile-oriented
  • Widgets
  • Microblogging
  • Cloud and Grid Computing
  • Open ID
  • Semantic Search
  • Semantic Techniques like RDF, SWRL, OWL etc.

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Read the latest blog titled, "The Evolution of the World Wide Web"

World Wide Web Today

It has been a long time since the world wide web has come into existence and has only made the use of internet convenient for the users. There have been some major changes which have also, in turn, affected the way the www functions and presents its features. Hence as a part of it, all major websites have adjusted their content design and development approach to accommodate the rapidly increasing fraction of the population accessing the web from small-screen phones instead of large screen desktop and laptop computers.

Among many other transformations, websites still continue to be accessed by their domain names and extensions. While dot-com domains remain the most popular, numerous others can now be registered including .info and .biz domains as and when required. As IE/Edge and Firefox continue to enjoy large followings, competition among web browsers continues to be strong. Apple continues to advance the Safari browser and Google has established its Chrome browser as a market contender. HTML has been re-established by HTML as it a modern technology which has been in the market for many years now. The performance enhancements of HTTP/2 have also ensured the protocol will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

Privacy and anonymity on the internet are an increasingly important issue on the web as significant amounts of personal information including a person’s search history and browsing patterns are routinely captured (often for targeted advertising purposes) along with some geolocation information. Anonymous web proxy services attempt to provide online users with an extra level of privacy by re-routing their browsing through third-party web servers.

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Conclusion

The development of the world wide web was and is a series of multiple situations. There were many different contributors and companies developing small segments that together added up to what the online world is today. Right from the way we communicate and share information, to how the information is searched online has changed as a whole. Whether we are looking for a recipe, the lyrics to that song we just heard, or a local restaurant, it’s the internet we always turn to for help.

Considering that over three million email messages are sent every second. Estimates indicate that the average office worker spends roughly 30% of their time on email, so it’s become a huge part of their workday. Irrespective of if we are working professionals or not, we more often than not use social media to communicate with friend and this way contribute to the seven billion social media shares that happen every day.

For many of us, the way we unwind at the end of the day is also powered by the internet. The rapid rise of streaming video over the internet has cable networks scrambling. The www has come a long way. And at 30 years old, the digital revolution is just getting started. Looking back at how far we’ve come makes us ask: what will the www look like in another 50 years?