On March 13, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first paper on adding hypertext capabilities to the Internet. At the time, the Internet was used almost exclusively by defense agencies, defense contractors, and higher education institutions. The traffic on the Internet was dominated by SMTP-based e-mail, NNTP-based newsgroups, FTP-based file transfers and TELNET sessions to remote devices. The Internet of that day was text-based. Twenty years ago, Tim had a grand vision that became the WorldWideWeb. The world has never been the same.
The 20th anniversary of Tim’s paper is a good time to look back on the evolution of the Web and how it has changed our lives. To sum it up, the Web has completely democratized access to information, products, services, applications, and other human beings.
Prior to the Web, we had to travel to libraries to look up information. Prior to the Web, we had to go to bookstores to buy books. Prior to the Web, we had to use travel agents to set up a trip. And prior to the Web, the best place to meet friends was at church or a bar.
The world has changed dramatically because of the Web. Due to the simplicy of the Web model, and the ubiquity of Web browsers and Internet access, a wealth of information is now available at our fingertips. We can buy a huge variety of products and services without having to leave our easy chairs, 24 hours a day. And we can interact with anybody, around the world, any time of the day or night.
The Web has had a profound impact on our societies, on our cultures, and on our economic models. The world would be a very different place without the Web.
Sure, there are warts. But the warts are minute compared to the positive benefits of the Web. We owe Sir Tim Berners-Lee a hearty ‘hurrah’ for his vision and his efforts to turn that vision into reality.
So what’s in store for the next 20 years? Stay tuned for part 2.
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