This World Wide Web we're at right now came up from the brain of one man, Tim Berners-Lee, and is the fastest-growing communication medium of all time. A quarter of a century had passed, and we can now see how the web has transformed out lives.
The most extraordinary thing about the internet is the way it enables a place for almost limitless innovation without compromise and permission. What the designers of the internet created was a global machine full of surprises. The web was a really big surprise when it first came out from Berners-Lee with a small group of team, wrote the necessary software and designed the protocols needed to implement the idea. He sat at a table with a computer, willing to give anyone with a few minutes to spare a personal introduction to his invention - a concept and a structure that would soon create a worldwide information revolution. .
The U.S. military began studying the idea of connected computer networks in the 1950s, and in 1970, ARPANET, the forerunner to the internet, established its first connection. But the World Wide Web was just one of several ideas to connect the public.
Berners-Lee convinced CERN to adopt his system, demonstrating its usefulness by compiling a lab phone book into an online index. And when he eventually launched it by putting it on the CERN's internet server in 1991, without having to ask anybody's permission, he did what he supposed to do: he created an invention that changed how the world sees information.
The web we use today is very much different from the one that appeared 25 years ago. The internet in fact has been evolving at a furious pace. The first era, Web 1.0, was the read-only, static web that existed until the late 1990s. Web 2.0 is the web of blogging, web services, mapping and so on. And the outlines of web 3.0 are only just beginning to appear as web applications that can "understand" the content of web pages (semantic web), the web of data (applications that can read, analyze and mine data), and so on, creating an opportunity for the evolution of artificial intelligence. And after that, the progress will continue as humans revealed more technology as we evolve.
The Internet Boom
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was the first real network to run on packet switching technology, connecting two computers for the first time. During that moment, only a few saw the potential. And during the years that Tim Berners-Lee and his team were pitching their project to the disinterested crowds, most people don't even care. But it was not long that people see the vast opportunity the internet and the world wide web have yet to give.
When most people were still on their offline computers, the World as the first commercial dial-up internet provider opened the gateway for commercial modems, and the 'boom' happened not long afterwards. People are starting to bring their early digital interactions into the real world. Although the internet in its infancy is limited, its already showing its bottomless well of potentials.
Mosaic, the Modern Browser
The first web browsers were far from what we have today. But when the Mosaic browser was introduced in 1993 by Marc Andreessen from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, its intuitive interface and integration with graphics made it the first widely-used web browser. Although it didn't have a back button, it was light and simple to install, making it first milestone of modern browsers.
As the software was spreading, so was the infrastructure for the young web. During the 1993 only, the number of web servers worldwide quickly grew from just a few dozens to several hundred.
By 1994, the roads for the information superhighway had been laid down, and the next thing it did was 'recruiting' web surfers. Unfortunately, most people were not into it yet. NBC's "Today Show" hosts bantering off-air during a commercial break and finally flat-out asking co-workers "what is internet?"
Mosaic Communications changed its name to Netscape Communications and went public. Its IPO was considered to be the start of the dotcom boom.
When the Pew Center started its research into the internet and American Life in 1995, it found 14 percent of the country was already online. These were the early addicts who tied up their landlines and ran up big bills with online services.
The Master Protocol
After the Mosaic browser was introduced and became popular, the web's Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) would become the preferred means of sharing information for public consumption over the internet's information highway.
Newsgroups could not support the critical masses of the information-addicted people that were beginning to crowd the internet. Neither could other predecessor parallel protocols to the web like Gopher, WAIS, or FTP, which all saw their status degraded as the web rose to prominence over the next two decades.
It was when AOL, Prodigy, and others began to take down the wall and added a browser to their subscription offerings in early 1995. At that time, people began to understand the immense potential the web is able to give.
This early group of internet addicts that saw the excitements and the power of the limitless online world that would eventually bloom smart and innovative people to think that the internet can challenge the foundations of economics rather than just a paradigm transaction.
With more and more people on the web, the internet became a crowded place. Information was sent to one place to another in the information highway didn't have any law that governed it. The government saw this as a threat and began restricting the internet. The web was then further challenged by The Telecommunications Act of 1996, the first significant overhaul of U.S. telecommunications law in more than sixty years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. The Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, represented a major change in American telecommunication law, since it was the first time that the internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment.
Berners-Lee's original desire was to create a web that would enable people not only to publish, but also to modify the web pages, but in the end, practical considerations led to the compromise of a read-only web: anybody could publish, but only the authors or owners of web pages could modify them. This led to the evolution of the web in a particular direction and it was probably the factor that guaranteed that corporations would in the end become dominant.
The internet was originally created by the government and runs on open source software. Nobody "owns" it. Yet on this "free" foundation, enterprises and fortunes have been built - a fact that people often seem to forget. Despite the fact that anybody can launch a website, the majority of the top 100 websites that changed the internet are run by corporations. Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, YouTube and Twitter to name a few. These are all commercial entities. The only real exception is Wikipedia. Berners-Lee had no idea that what he was building would have such an effect on society or grow so large. "I spent a lot of time trying to make sure people could put anything on the web, that it was universal," he said in an interview. "Obviously, I had no idea that people would put literally everything on it."
The events within the timeline of the internet and the World Wide Web have written their own history. Today, the World Wide Web has an estimated 630 million websites with 30 billion web pages at its peak and over 2.5 billion users. And the numbers just keep growing.