What’s the History of the Web?

05 Dec 2018
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The history of the Web is a story of greater connectivity and faster access to information. The earliest networked computers date to the 1960s when ARPANET connected Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, and MIT for basic data sharing. In 1971, Ray Tomlinson invented email, and by 1973, 75% of the traffic on ARPANET was email. Over time, consensus grew around connecting all networks without a central governing body. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed such a standard for connecting all computers with regulated rules for data transmission and an open architecture. By 1991, the Web as we know it was born with the arrival of the very first Web page.

Web 1.0

The 1990s and early 2000s saw massive improvements in early Web functionality. Dial-up modems made it possible for anyone with a phone line to connect to the Web. Web 1.0 was characterized by a few key technologies: email, the first graphical browsers, and static web pages. The primary activity on Web 1.0 was reading. You could read emails from other people, news, essays, recipes, forums, and more. If you had your own Web page or forum account, you could also post your own thoughts on the internet. The internet was like the Wild West; it lacked structure but was also entirely open for anyone to share or try anything.

Web 2.0

The Web started to change at the end of the 1990s. The founding of Google led to an explosion in the number of relevant websites you could discover. Services like Myspace and Napster changed the way we thought about the internet as well. The turn of the 2000s saw the decline of the dial-up modem in exchange for much faster DSL and cable connections. The internet was no longer a place only to read and write. Now you could access music and other media. You could share your reactions and life events on your social media accounts and connect with friends online.

Mobile Revolution

Steve Jobs and Apple started the most recent revolution in the history of the Web with smartphone browsing. Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, desktop browsing usage numbers have fallen year over year. Increasingly, people are visiting web pages, running apps, and accessing services through their phones and tablets. The mobile revolution has fundamentally changed the way websites are designed and how accessible web applications are to us at any time, anywhere.

Infrastructure Precedes Applications

The moral of the history of the internet is that infrastructure always precedes applications. ARPANET needed to exist before email could be invented. The internet needed to be invented before we could create web pages. Faster connections needed to exist before social media could flourish, and smartphones had to be invented before mobile apps could change our world. The same applies to the Web 3.0 revolution. We need infrastructure like blockchain mining and distributed computing networks before we can build powerful Web 3.0 applications.