The World Wide Web is celebrating quite a special birthday this week. It might not have it’s own card or the notoriety associated with becoming 21 or the big 3-0, but when you get to it, 25 is a pretty special age to be.
Not yet basking in the self-assurance of the late 20s, you also begin to see why no one took you seriously at the start of early adulthood. It’s a strange and exciting time of your life where a little bit of self-assurance has to be mixed with a lot of celebration.
So, to mark the occasion and prove just how far the World Wide Web has come in 25 young years, I’m taking a look at some of the Web’s key moments, as well as reminiscing on some of my own early internet memories.
Although the web is universally celebrated on March 12th, this was actually the day in 1989 that the now Director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Sir Tim Berners-Lee, presented his proposal paper for the World Wide Web – the day it was conceived, if you will.
Fast-forward to 1993 and the first web browser, Mosaic is launched. Widely credited with popularising the internet as we know it, the early 90s sees the Web grow into more than a twinkle in this uber-nerd’s eye.
You’ve Got Web-Mail:
Long before tweeting daily reminders of “Gin O’Clock”, Queen Elizabeth II sent one of the world’s first emails from an army base in Malvern back in 1976.
However, with the web came the popularity of web-mail, a web-based email service that was free to the general public. By the millennium it had become much more common for people to have their own email address courtesy of web-mail service providers like AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo! and it wasn’t long before I was thrown into the world of the email with my very own account.
I still don’t think I sent anything. Of course, I didn’t have anyone to contact let alone realise the significance. But alas, thanks to my stepdad and his library card, I was signed up to web-mail and, much to my sister’s amusement, email@example.com became my first ever email address – and didn’t I feel supercool.
Before broadband meant we no longer had to put up with that awful screech there was, of course, dial-up internet connections. It’s come as quite a shock to me to realise (while writing this blog) that I never had dial-up internet – in fact, I never had the internet while growing up in my family home. It was still a very modern concept to me as only two (of my five) best friends had the privilege at the beginning of the noughties.
Needless to say, most of my early internet memories stem from looking over my best friend’s shoulder as she showed me the ropes of MSN chat – only for an hour before peak time of course. And from ‘BRB, Mam wants to use the phone’ the attitude in their household soon changed to “Who’s using the damn phone? You’ve just cut off the internet!”
Search and Index:
It was an early reward in our I.T. class at school that, should we finish all of our work with time to spare, we could use our free time to browse the internet. The first time we were told this, I got so excited at the prospect that I finished in record time…only to spend the next ten minutes staring at a blank page with a search bar wondering what the hell I was supposed to do next.
After this experience, I became aware of URLs on adverts and magazine pages and jotted them down in a notebook so as to better prepare myself next time (told you I was cool!).
But the significance of this memory is in what my friend innocently said when we sat there in front of the web like complete lemons: “There should be a website where we can search for other websites.”
Of course Yahoo! were already ten steps ahead of her – well, around 6 years ahead – as despite ‘Archie’ being considered the first internet search engine used in 1987, Yahoo! began to bring the idea of web indexing to the masses in 1994 and became a common ‘starting point’ for web users near the end of the decade. Not quite the omnipotent web-giant that is Google in 2014, Yahoo! still plays a major part in the history of the information superhighway.
The Social Network:
As the web became part of our daily routine, so did social networks. Starting with sites like Friendster in 2002 and MySpace in 2003, social networking looked to connect friends with their very own online platform. The social power-house that is Facebook has since dethroned MySpace here in the UK, sharing the crown with Twitter which was launched in 2006. Not only have social sites like this become popular browser home pages, but social media replaced some more traditional media outlets as Twitter even began to beat major news corporations to the scoop with real-time updates.
With so much achievement before even hitting your 25th birthday, it’s hard to imagine where the Web will go next or how it will keep evolving. I’m sure when Berners-Lee was writing his proposal back in 1989 that he couldn’t have even begun to imagine the global impact it would have on our now cloud-working, ever-tweeting, food-snapping, music-streaming, cat-loving society.
And whether you love or hate our obsession with the web, it’s hard not to be in awe of the changes it’s made to our daily lives – developments in technology that certainly deserve celebration this weekend. Even old Liz Windsor would raise a gin to that.