As of the 25th of September 2017, the Internet has been in existence for 10,424 days. If ‘Internet’ seems like an umbrella term, we mean it in the way that we know it today – the World Wide Web. A haven for controversy, it has led a tumultuous life, set upon by bugs, hackers, sceptics, trolls, abusers, and uprisings since its birth in 1989.
Through it all, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee’s invention has kept us entertained, informed, and has opened up a world of opportunities for business and technology – just think; the term ‘digital marketer’ would have seemed alien 30 years ago. In fact, we’d be nowhere without the World Wide Web – at Thinkun, we sing the song of HTTP communication every day!
The Web inspires, connects, teaches and allows us to create things that at one point seemed impossible. Of course, the Web doesn’t discriminate, delivering cat videos and endless memes to counterbalance its seemingly endless supply of knowledge.
Berners-Lee’s invention is often confused with the Internet itself – the World Wide Web is actually just the most common means of accessing data online through websites and hyperlinks.
The Web helped popularise the Internet among the public, and served as a crucial step in developing the vast medley of information most of us access on a daily basis. It is therefore difficult to credit the invention of the Internet to a single person – it was the work of dozens of pioneering scientists, programmers and engineers.
The Internet was initially conceived in the US as a government weapon during the Cold War. By the end of the 1970s, a computer scientist named Vinton Cerf sought to solve the problem of multiplying computer networks. He developed a way for all of the computers on all of the world’s mini-networks to communicate. This was called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), later Internet Protocol (IP).
This transformed the Internet into a worldwide network, used throughout the 1980s by researchers and scientists to transfer files and data between computers. Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web was more than just sending files from one place to another: it was an interactive web of information that anyone on the Internet could retrieve.
In celebration of the World Wide Web’s 28 years of existence, we’ve chosen pinnacle moments for every year of its existence – 28 revolutionary burning candles – and our predictions for the two years until its 30th birthday.
The World Wide Web: A History
On March 12, Berners-Lee conceives “Information Management: A Proposal”.
The three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web are written:
- HTML – HyperText Markup Language
- URI – Uniform Resource Identifier, also called URL
- HTTP – HyperText Transfer Protocol
On August 6, CERN (link: http://home.cern/) releases the World Wide Web to the public.
The Internet has one million hosts.
Milestone document: declaration by CERN’s directors that World Wide Web technology will be freely used by anyone, with no fees payable. It is placed in the public domain, effectively donated to the world.
One of the first known Web purchases takes place: a pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese from Pizza Hut.
AuctionWeb is released, later to become eBay in 1997. Amazon.com opens for business, Craigslist is founded and Match.com, the first online dating site, launches.
Hotmail, one of the world’s first Webmail services, launches.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory allows people to visit Mars via the Internet, a Web event that attracts 40-45 million hits each day.
20% of Americans get news from the Internet at least once a week, up from 4% in 1995.
The name Wi-Fi is first commercially used.
40 million Americans – or 48% of internet users – have purchased a product online.
Jimmy Wales launches Wikipedia. Users write over 20,000 encyclopaedia entries in the first year.
Social networking site Friendster.com launches, but is quickly overtaken by Facebook.
The year Thinkun was founded is the same year the WordPress blog publishing system was created.
Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launches thefacebook.com and 1,200 Harvard students sign up within the first 24 hours. Facebook will become the world’s biggest social networking site, with over a billion users worldwide.
Community news site Reddit is founded, the same year as the first video is uploaded to YouTube.
Estonia is the world’s first country to use internet voting in a parliamentary election.
HTML5 is introduced and Apple launches its App Store with 552 applications.
Twitter raises $98 million from investors, valuing the company at US$1 billion.
WikiLeaks collaborates with major media organisations to release US Diplomatic cables.
Young Egyptian rebels use the hashtags #Egypt and #Jan25 on Twitter to spread the word about the Egyptian Revolution. The government responds by shutting down the Internet.
66% of Internet users use Facebook, 12% use Instagram.
51% of US adults bank online.
Facebook buys messaging app WhatsApp for US$19 billion.
An expeditioner sends the first ever Blrt from Antarctica. This implies a video-like experience at around 1/50th the file size.
Niantic releases Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game downloaded by more than 130 million users.
EU approves €120m plan for free, state-of-the-art Wi-Fi in over 6000 public places.
What’s to come?
84% of Web traffic is now video.
Despite astronomical growth, nearly half the world’s population will still not have access to the Internet.