06 August 2011

20 Years Of The World Wide Web

World Wide Web logo

In August 6 of 1991, a new way to access, browse and view the web was born and known as the World Wide Web. His inventor, Tim Berners-Lee (then  36)  had published the first website. A historic moment that happened at a CERN facility in the Swiss Alps.

And if you want to read a great recollection of that with a bit of history infused into it. You can read the GeekDad at Wired post called:

20 Years Ago Today: The First Website Is Published

Or if you want just the facts you can always hit the “WWW” Wikipedia entry:

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

In any case, you can also stay here at Appatic at the same time and read a bit of my ruminations on the WWW and the fact it is now 20 years old.

From Pre-WWW to a Mature WWW 1.0

I remember that the first time I read/heard/watched about The Internet was actually like in 1983 pre-WarGames movie. I was just a wee kid back then as I was born in 1978. But I actually got recollection of anything from 1980 to now, so I do remember.   As I grew up, the notion of connecting to The Internet being hard and a hassle was what I knew thanks to Popular Mechanics and other magazines from the time. And it was true. Then in 1990 the rumblings were about the coming of easier ways to connect to the internet. It would no longer take you a whole day (or more) to install and connect you. It would take just a few hours!! And there would be better programs to access content from The Internet!!. “Amazing and I cannot wait” was my reaction. But it still took until the news about this new thing called the “World Wide Web” in 1991, to really push me to start looking for a way to connect to The Internet. From the most embarrassing notions about what the World Wide Web was, is that it was “The Second Internet”. Which as we know is not the truth. Just that it was perceived like that.

But that was the notion, which confused me then as I thought “I guess that the first one was just not good enough, so they made a new one”. But then in 1993, the talk was that there was  this “new” thing called Internet Browser to better access it. The best option being something called “Mosaic”. A big program that you needed to install and configure apart from having to install the internet connection set up.  “How hard it can be? They said I could do it in just a few hours, years ago” I thought to myself.

Finally I had everything to be able to connect to The Internet and use the World Wide Web.  I set it up, installed everything (Win 3.1) and configured everything following a 10 pages guide I had printed from a computer shop from where they had sold me the browser.  And it only took like 90 minutes!! “Incredible!, they said hours and I did it in like 90 minutes! cool” thought in awe. 

I mean the whole thing is a bit of blurry now. But I know how ridiculously hard and time consuming the whole thing must read back to anyone less than 20.  I know, because I remember telling a version to this story to the teen son of a friend and he was like “Fuck!, It took you HOURS??? “ with a stare of disbelief, never mind if I said that it was around 90 minutes and the teen apparently don’t know that that is not equal to hours.  But anyways. That was the state of things back in late 1993.  When setting up a new PC, Installing the OS, configuring it and then installing and configuring your connection to The Internet could take you up to 9 hrs to do so in full and do it “right”.  Something that now takes 90 minutes if you happen to be of the few people that built their own PC’s, take them home and then insist in still installing their own wired network and configure their router. Otherwise for the common folk, it can just take no longer than 9 minutes if they don’t have to install or configure anything. Just taking out the PC from a box, setting it up, turning in on and registering the Wi-Fi connection. Yet people still fail to see how we indeed live in the future after all.

But for the first 10 years of the WWW, things could not have gone faster and smoother. With the big Boosts being the release of Windows  95, Windows 98 and of  course Windows XP. 

10 years is also what can be considered Web 1.0, that as wikipedia puts it:

Some design elements of a Web 1.0 site include:

Which is about right in very broad terms.

In specific terms in hard to explain how Web 1.0 was because it was just damn weird, scary and equally exciting and new. As things were slow and everything in the web was unfiltered, unranked and uncensored.  By 1995, being online was already a daily thing for me and I measured everything by browsing sessions and computing sessions. I dedicated a minimum average of 90 minutes to each one, almost every day.  90 minutes of browsing then and what you could see during those 90 minutes today would take you 15 minutes. But that was what made it such a focused endeavor compared to now.

Browsing the web was an activity that required to be focused, knowing what you wanted in advance and then go looking for it by going to a portal, link-hopping or directly writing the addresses one by one and bookmarking them for later. It was only later on that you could search on stuff. But doing so also meant you were willing to read up NO LESS than the first 10 results, and then deciding which ones you would launch. Remember, there were no browser tabs and having over 10 browser windows open was sometimes not wise as you would then be in risk of running out of virtual memory or slowing down you computer if you have other apps open. It was better to just have up to 5 browser windows and then close up windows as you went on. 

Leaving a big comment or forum post often required you to wait up to 10 seconds until you were sure it was posted and then checking if it was posted, double-checking everything you did while browsing was the usual good way of browsing the web.

You could not upload anything directly to a website from a browser at first and the idea of downloading anything substantial beyond a photo or a midi file was preposterous unless you planned to do something else and come back 30 minutes later. And that is how it was back in 1995 and during pretty much the first 5 years of the WWW, mind boggling stuff right?

From Web 2.0 to Now

2003 and on what would be known as Web 2.0, started to really flourish to finally explode in 2005. 

Wikipedia (as put by Andrew McFee) points these as some of the most relevant Web 2.0  concepts:

Search - Finding information through keyword search.
Links  - Connects information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web, and provides low-barrier social tools.
Authoring  -The ability to create and update content leads to the collaborative work of many rather than just a few web authors. In wikis, users may extend, undo and redo each other's work. In blogs, posts and the comments of individuals build up over time.
Tags  - Categorization of content by users adding "tags"—short, usually one-word descriptions—to facilitate searching, without dependence on pre-made categories. Collections of tags created by many users within a single system may be referred to as "folksonomies" (i.e., folk taxonomies).
Extensions  Software that makes the Web an application platform as well as a document server. These include software like Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash player, Microsoft Silverlight, ActiveX, Oracle Java, Quicktime, Windows Media, etc.
Signals  The use of syndication technology such as RSS to notify users of content changes.

And from these concepts for Web 2.0, it then can be sectioned as having 3 elemental components:

    • Rich Internet application (RIA) — defines the experience brought from desktop to browser whether it is from a graphical point of view or usability point of view. Some buzzwords related to RIA are Ajax, Flash or Flex and Silverlight.
    • Service-oriented architecture (SOA) — is a key piece in Web 2.0 which defines how Web 2.0 applications expose their functionality so that other applications can leverage and integrate the functionality providing a set of much richer applications (Examples are: Feeds, RSS, Web Services, Mash-ups)
    • Social Web — defines how Web 2.0 tends to interact much more with the end user and make the end-user an integral part.

That all together simply means that the web you know now and enjoy everyday, be it in your smartphone, slate or PC. Just didn’t existed just  8 years ago and had not popularized and spread out, just 5 years ago. This is not meant to be taken as if I was implying some of you were not around back then. But would you be shocked to now than more than half of current internet users were not around 7 years ago? Well, now you know.

Back then in the early 2000, the truly big changes were video embeds going mainstream with RealPlayer, Windows Media Video and Quicktime.  As so there were then the first animated embed elements from Macromedia (later bought by Adobe and turned in the Flash of today). Ditto for more and more powerful java applets that let you do all kind of things directly in the browser.  All kinds of things that by the time the Web 2.0 exploded in 2005 were starting to go away and be fully  replaced thanks to the rise of Widgets and RIA’s from 2007 and on, Just a Social Media was about explode thanks to the build up of all those things.

From The WWW of Now To The WWW of the Future.

Now in 2011, what happened just 5 years ago is already old history.  As from early 2010 and on people re now wondering where is Web 3.0? It is not supposed to be here already?

With the answer that being; It is already here and I see Web 3.0 as the full Appification of the web and web content and the use of Web Stack Only to develop apps . A web that lives within apps beyond a browser, in Apps that have completely blurred the lines of desktop, mobile and browser.  A web that can still exist within a RIA solution. A Web that also has not just transcended platforms, but that is mature and advanced enough to have an acceptable amount of fidelity not just cross-platform, but also cross-device and cross-medium. 

What to expect of the World Wide Web for the future? Just that it will be there as it has been there now: Free, Open and Accessible.  Anything else I will gladly like to live it as it comes and goes. 

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