The Web is 25 years old today

World Wide Web turns 25 years old. World Wide Web turned 25 years today according to The browser’s resized future in a fragmented www world article. Wikipedia verifies that in March 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist and former CERN employee, wrote a proposal for what would eventually become the World Wide Web. Twenty-five years ago, the World Wide Web was just an idea in a technical paper from an obscure, young computer scientist at a European physics lab. The original proposal was meant for a more effective CERN communication system: The World Wide Web was the byproduct of an answer to an information silo problem tasking the brains at CERN.

Berners-Lee never actually proposed a system for the whole world, but Berners-Lee eventually realized the concept could be implemented throughout the world. That idea from Tim Berners-Lee at the CERN lab in Switzerland, outlining a way to easily access files on linked computers, paved the way for a global phenomenon that has touched the lives of billions of people. In his invention of the Web, one of Berners-Lee’s most important achievements was the development of the uniform resource locator (URL).

In 1993, the web system was released free into the public. Web became quickly popular because those behind competing Gopher system started charging for their systems and also because under the Berners-Lee model, people were free to publish what they wished on internet-linked computers. By 1993 there were more than 500 web servers.  In October 1994, Tim Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to to develop web standard. Around that time I had my own first experiences on using Web.  Today, there are more than 1.7 billion people on the web worldwide.

A 25-Year Timeline Of The World Wide Web article has a compact time line how web conquered the world. For longer version take a look at 25 years of the World Wide Web: Tim Berners-Lee explains how it all began article that shows how the development from a single machine in Switzerland to a global network of computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Check also 25 years of the World Wide Web: Top 10 interesting WWW facts.

The story of the web has been dominated by how information is presented – how web pages look. The browser converted the HTML presentation to the user screen or other media (like printed page). Berners-Lee’s first browser was a boring text-based thing, but soon came first successful browser, Mosaic. It was followed by Netscape and all the modern browsers we use nowadays (most often Chrome, Firefox or IE).

World Wide Web technologies and web browser practically overtake almost all custom applications to access information on-line: separate proprietary application software for one Internet use and web browser extensions are mostly forgotten past. On-line world is again changing because mobile is overtaking the PC as the number one way to go online.

Analyst eMarketer estimates 73.4 per cent of internet users in 2013 accessed the web from a mobile device – with the number expected to hit 90.1 per cent in 2017. The Web is currently going through a profound change, and the next 25 years are likely to be very different from the last.

Two-and-a-half decades on, this old shovel is getting cast aside and a new tool – the native app – is being taken up to get people online. It started with Apple’s iPhone. Microsoft and Google liked it so much, they followed suit, with their own handset plans and their own app stores.

Web technologies have evolved and HTML5 allows to build apps as well. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, have flirted with generic alternatives built using HTML5 but have spiked these and gone native. The browser’s resized future in a fragmented www world article says that “the success of devices and native apps would seem to confirm the end of the generic website and generic website viewer that is the browser” but also a offers counter-theory “the pendulum will swing back and the browser and generic web will find a new home on a new web”. I hope the latter will be the future, and we will have widely available web also on the future rather than siloed app store controlled world. The browser and the PC could still have a role to play in serving customers who are not satisfied with squinting and poking at a small screen or losing connectivity.

Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on net neutrality and privacy in web birthday message: “The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don’t need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.” I can agree that 25 Years Old, the World Wide Web’s Potential Still Untapped: only a fraction of the web’s potential has been realized.

Newspapers are quite rightly back-slapping Brit inventor Tim Berners-Lee today for inventing the web, but it’s a pity, then, that mainstream publications continue to stumble over the concept by lazily and wrongly saying that Berners-Lee birthed the internet. Internet was invented a lot of earlier and pretty widely used by researchers at the time web was invented (although not much known to general public).  I already had used Internet before web was invented. It means that I have used Internet for more than 25 years.

The history of Internet began with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s. The first message was sent over the ARPANet, which evolved into the internet, from computer science Professor Leonard Kleinrock’s laboratory at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), after the second piece of network equipment was installed at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). My earlier post today The Room Where The Internet Was Born tells about that.



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A World Wide Web just for luvvies and VCs – or for all of us?
    Part 1: In which we look at what the Greatest Living Briton got wrong (and right)

    The Web turns 25 years old today – just three years after it “turned 20″, according to the Economist – and Tim Berners-Lee has written yet another declaration of rights, a “Magna Carta”, to mark the occasion.

    These incessant anniversaries are proof that journalists and media luvvies love looking backwards rather than reporting what’s in front of them – warts and all.

    The web does not lack manifestos, declarations, decrees, charters, proclamations, or lists.

    The World Wide Web was essentially a quick hack – it was a piece of improvisation. It just happened to be a hack the world found useful at the time: electronic publishing using machine readable tags, or markup, to give things in documents meaning and describe how they appeared, had been evolving throughout the 1970s.

    The brilliantly clever bit of Berners-Lee’s proposal was the simplicity – he’d created an instantly useful document management system. For a while, as the internet was opened up, Berners-Lee’s HTML was just another navigation system alongside Gopher and WAIS. But by the end of 1994 VC money turned an academic side project into Netscape, and from that point on, the world would have to work with HTML.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tim Berners-Lee: 25 years on, the Web still needs work (Q&A)

    The World Wide Web is a smashing tech success. But its inventor wants it to break down more cultural barriers, thwart government snooping, and run apps, not just house documents.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Web firms face a strict new set of privacy rules in Europe — here’s what to expect

    The European Parliament has passed the EU’s first major overhaul of data protection legislation since 1995, taking into account today’s online landscape. Meanwhile, parliamentarians also approved a resolution calling for the suspension of a key deal affecting U.S. web firms.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Epic Partners With Mozilla To Port Unreal Engine 4 To The Web

    Epic and Mozilla today announced that they are porting Unreal Engine 4 to the web.

    At last year’s Game Developers Conference, Mozilla showed a port of Unreal Engine 3, the foundation for many AAA games, running in the browser. That was a bit of a wake-up call for many developers, given that this kind of plug-in-free gaming experience in the browser seemed impossible just a few years before.

    The Mozilla tools that made this possible were asm.js, the organization’s high-performance subset of JavaScript, and the Emscripten compiler that can take C/C++ code and turn it into asm.js code that can run on any browser.

    Now with Unreal Engine 4, Epic is going beyond the demo and is making the web a core platform for developers who use its engine for their games.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Web inventor Berners-Lee: I so did NOT see this cat vid thing coming
    ‘A primarily neutral tool’

    Web @ 25 Sir Tim Berners-Lee has had a busy day of it. On the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web (not the internet)

    Sir Tim revealed that he had considered many names for the web

    Sir Tim took some flack from the Redditors (as he has from some in the industry) over his support for digital rights management in the HTML5 standard. But, he explained, DRM was needed in some circumstances to support high-value products.

    As for Edward Snowden, Sir Tim said he supported the whistleblower’s leaks because Snowden had no other choice and the result had been a net benefit for the web.

    popular online that he’d never imagined would be a hit, Sir Tim answered “kittens.”

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google removes underlined links, says goodbye to 1996

    Google started life as a research project in 1996 to crawl the internet and create a search engine. 18 years later, Google is now removing the last of the design left over from that era. Starting today, the ’90s-style underlined links are being removed from Google search results. It truly marks the end of an era of the web, with underlined links a familiar method used by web developers to highlight links

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This led to the rather confusing situation where major media outlets seemed to be implying that the internet was only 25 years old (gosh, it’s really come on, hasn’t it?). Although the best has to be the Daily Mail’s clanger:

    Internet described as “vague but exciting” when Tim Berners-Lee proposed the concept


  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Microsoft closing in on Apache’s web server crown
    And sprinting up on the inside, here comes Nginx!

    50 million more of the world’s web servers started to run Microsoft’s internet information server (IIS) during February, according to Netcraft.

    If IIS can keep growing at this rate, Netcraft observes, it could overtake Apache during 2014.

    That prospect is dampened somewhat by the fact that big increase for Microsoft is attributed to a single company – the Nobis Technology Group – switching to IIS.

  9. cat6 plenum says:

    It’s really amazing how web has transformed what is used to be in the old days and what It is now nice post tomi!

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Image of the Day: A timeline of Internet websites
    When did the websites you’ve come to know and love actually come into existence?

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Secret History of Hypertext

    The conventional history of computing leaves out some key thinkers.

    When Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” first appeared in The Atlantic’s pages in July 1945, it set off an intellectual chain reaction that resulted, more than four decades later, in the creation of the World Wide Web.

    In that landmark essay, Bush described a hypothetical machine called the Memex: a hypertext-like device capable of allowing its users to comb through a large set of documents stored on microfilm, connected via a network of “links” and “associative trails” that anticipated the hyperlinked structure of today’s Web.

    Historians of technology often cite Bush’s essay as the conceptual forerunner of the Web. And hypertext pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee have all acknowledged their debt to Bush’s vision. But for all his lasting influence, Bush was not the first person to imagine something like the Web.

    In 1895, Otlet and his partner Henri La Fontaine—a Belgian senator and future Nobel Peace Prize Winner—launched a project called the Universal Bibliography, or Répertoire Bibliographique Universel, an ambitious plan to catalog of all the world’s published information.

    After winning the support of the Belgian government, the two men hired a staff of catalogers who eventually created more than 15 million entries stored on index cards (the state-of-the-art storage technology of the time), all classified using a system called the Universal Decimal Classification, an adapted version of the Dewey Decimal System. At one point, they even ran a commercial service that would allow anyone to submit a query and receive an answer via telegraph, for a small fee.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Web’s two decades

    The FIFA World Cup 1994 will be remembered on the first major sporting event in the communication were also treated their own website.

    During the following years the network also saw many of the currently popular online services such as Amazon (1994), Yahoo (1994), Google (1996) and The New York Times (1995). On the other hand, for example, Wikipedia (2001) and Facebook (2004) are much more recent arrivals

    Two decades, a web node has re-invented several times. Changes in the wind is blowing in a continuous stream, with interactive technologies, mobile devices and social networks have changed the way we use it. Also, the amount of content is exploding at the same time.

    Although Hotmail and Amazon have been familiar with the brands over the web from the beginning, only a real wizard would be able to mid-1990s, predicts the rise of Google and Facebook, as well as companies caused by the change in the size of the surrounding world.

    Older websites filings archive will investigate the history of the web-user help. However prompt a visit to the archives of web pages to reveal the integrity of how the furious pace of development has taken place.


  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
    Tim Berners-Lee isn’t happy, but we should be

    It’s possible to have a certain sympathy for Sir Tim Berners-Lee as he looks at what people have done to his glorious world wide web.

    Instead of it remaining the glorious bottom-up egalitarian creation it once was, it’s become infested with people like Facebitch using it to scramble for filthy lucre.

    Over in The Guardian, Stuart Jeffries is worrying about what has been done to Berners-Lee’s creation:

    Sceptical is right. The world wide web has increasingly facilitated the global spread of misogyny, the hate crime of revenge porn, corporate and state surveillance, bullying, racism, the life-ruining, time-wasting, Sisyphean digital servitude of deleting spam, the existentially crushing spadework of fatuous finessing of those lies, one’s Facebook profiles. It has spread from the grassroots up, from Berners-Lee’s desktop to the world, has been coterminous with lots of other intolerable things.

    The go-to economist on this point is William Baumol. He changes the meanings of words a little bit when discussing this: he uses the word invention to describe the creation of new stuff, the world wide web for example, and the word innovation to mean “derivative invention” – or, if you prefer, what people go off to use that new invention to do (as opposed to the more usual meaning of innovation: incremental improvements).

    Regardless of the uses to which Bell and Edison imagined people would put their inventions, people used them how they saw fit.

    Another way to put this is that human beings are hugely, vastly, interested in a certain number of things (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs here) and we’re going to use any new invention that comes along to advance our interests in those things. Food water and sex are pretty high on that list.

    If we look to past inventions, we can see several examples of the Hierarchy at work.

    Berners-Lee did indeed invent the web: but an invention is as a child. One can create it but then it does need to be released out there into the world and what becomes of it will only partially be determined by who and how it was created: interaction with the rest of that world will have a great deal of influence on what finally becomes of it.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How the web lost its way – and its founding principles

    When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web 24 years ago he thought he’d created an egalitarian tool that would share information for the greater good. But it hasn’t quite worked out like that. What went wrong?

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee defends decision not to bake security into www
    ‘The idea that privacy is dead is hopelessly sad’

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee has defended his decision not to build in security at the onset of the world wide web.

    It’s easy to be wise in hindsight, but Sir Tim explained that at the point he invented the world wide web 25 years ago, he wanted to create a platform that developers would find familiar and easy to use. Baking in security at that point might have worked against that goal, he said.

    “[The web] might not have taken off if it had been too difficult,” he told an audience at IPExpo Europe this morning.

    Sir Tim’s views are in contrast with those of another internet pioneer, Vint Cerf, who recently said he regretted not building in security to basic internet protocols. Berners-Lee strongly supported the current push towards always-on crypto (https) for websites now underway, so his differing views are more to do with timing and priorities than principles.

    “The idea that privacy is dead is hopelessly sad,” Sir Tim Berners-Lee said. “We have to build systems that allow for privacy.”

    “People have the right to see how their data is being used,” he said, adding that he prefer to talk about “rich data” rather than Big Data.

    “We should build a world where I have control of my data and sell it to you. Users should have control, access to and ownership of their data,” Berners-Lee said.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    CSS Proposed 20 Years Ago Today

    On 10 October 1994, Opera CTO Hakon Lie posted a proposal for Cascading HTML style sheets. Now, two decades on, CSS has become one of the modern web’s most important building blocks

    He says that if these standards were not made, “the web would have become a giant fax machine where pictures of text would be passed along.”

    Cascading HTML style sheets — a proposal


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