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On the 20th anniversary of the Web, part 1

by Gene Phifer  |  March 6, 2009  |  1 Comment

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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Category: web  

Tags: anniversary  tim-berners-lee  web  

Gene Phifer
VP, Distinguished Analyst
21 years at Gartner
47 years IT industry

Gene Phifer is a VP, Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research. Mr. Phifer covers customer engagement strategies, including customer experience, employee experience, user experience and digital experience technologies.Read Full Bio

Thoughts on On the 20th anniversary of the Web, part 1

  1. Ant says:

    “To sum it up, the Web has completely democratized access to information, products, services, applications, and other human beings.”


    I think we too often overstate the reach of the Web.

    In the UK, in 2008, less that two-thirds of households had internet access ( Is democracy complete when it excludes one third of the population?

    More interesting are the demographic differences. From the same source, “Adults under 70 years of age who had a degree or equivalent qualification were most likely to have access to the Internet in their home, at 93 per cent. Those individuals who had no formal qualifications, were least likely to have an Internet connection in their home at 56 per cent.”

    It would be interesting to look at this globally. See, for example,

    Clearly, parts of the world that could benefit hugely from democratized access to information, products, services, applications, and other human beings are very far from “completely”.


    PS. See also Andrea’s blog: How does that third get it’s say?

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