The World Wide Web is now as old as the typical millennial.
On March 12, the World Wide Web celebrated its 30th birthday. Over the last three decades, we’ve seen it mature from the first webpage to having a ubiquitous presence in our lives.
Visualizing the History of the World Wide Web
Today’s infographic comes to us from the App Institute, and highlights key milestones since the inception of the web. We’ll look at some major developments on this timeline that defined what the web is today.
Tim Berners-Lee Proposes The World Wide Web on March 12, 1989
Although the giant network of computers that formed the Internet – and its “ARPANET” predecessor – already existed, there was no universal way of writing, transmitting, storing, and accessing the Internet in a clean and organized manner.
A computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the first formalized proposal of what he would later call the “World Wide Web”.
A flow chart of Berners-Lee’s vision in 1989. Source: W3
From this vision, his work would go on to develop and influence assets the web still uses today like hypertext (links), webpages, and browsers.
The founder of the World Wide Web is still around, and most recently Berners-Lee has been fighting for his vision of an open and decentralized Internet.
Mosaic was the first browser to popularize “surfing the web”. Launched in 1993, Mosaic’s graphical user interface (GUI) made it easy for the average user to browse multimedia webpages.
The first browser war began when Microsoft launched Internet Explorer in 1995. Unlike Netscape, Internet Explorer was free of charge. Microsoft overtook Netscape with help from their deep pockets and the fact that they held over 90% of the desktop operating system market share.
This would eventually lead to the U.S. government filing an anti-trust case against Microsoft for engaging in anti-competitive practices – but Internet Explorer escaped mostly unaffected, with it’s market share climbing to 96% by 2002.
Today, the second browser war has largely been dominated by Google Chrome, which launched in 2008 and overtook Internet Explorer by 2012.
Web Crawling: Search
Search engines helped popularize the web by making information easily accessible and searchable. Web Crawler was the first search engine that allowed users to search for words and terms on a webpage.
Source: App Institute
Since then, dozens of search engines have launched, but one player has dominated the search market. Today, over 90% of searches online are made through Google.
The Social Internet
In the late 1990s, online diaries and “blogging” websites like Open Diary, LiveJournal and Blogger popularized people sharing their thoughts to an audience online.
This evolved into social networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, which allowed people to “add” their friends and follow their lives online.
Today, of course, Facebook dominates the Social Media Universe with over 2.2 billion users.
The launch of iPhones and Androids in 2007 – 2008 ushered in a new era where people could access the web from their phones. Before this, websites on phones were clunky to use and mostly resembled their desktop counterparts. Third-party apps and websites designed for mobile touchscreens changed the way we browsed the web.
By 2016, mobile phones surpassed desktops and laptops as our favorite way to access the web:
Privacy: You’re the Product Now
With billions of people accessing the web, the trail of data left behind has become extremely profitable for tech giants like Google and Facebook. The data they collect from people’s private information, online behaviors, and demographics allow advertisers to perfectly target consumers.
With ever growing privacy scandals, and even the creation of surveillance states, how people’s privacy and data is handled will likely be the most important issue for the future of the web.