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The Internet at 30 years old – how the web has changed

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The Internet at 30 years old – how the web has changed

Two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants, or over 5.1 billion people, are Internet users today
(photo: CC0 Public Domain)

Three decades ago, the global appeared network (World Wide Webor WWW), which changed many aspects in the life of peopleso. This applies to almost everything from study and work to leisure and entertainment.

During its existence, the web has grown to incredible proportions. In April 1993, when the WWW began to gain popularity, it consisted of only 623 sites, while today the number exceeds 1.1 billion and the number of users is more than 5 billion, the Times noted in a post about the anniversary.

The foundation

In the late 1980s, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) was in dire need of technology that would allow thousands of scientists from more than 100 countries to quickly exchange information. At that time, programmer Tim Berners-Lee worked at CERN, who was also involved in the creation of the organization’s internal network. It was he, along with Robert Caillot, who are considered the creators of the World Wide Web.

In 1989, Berners-Lee proposed a project for a global hypertext system that could be accessed from anywhere. This system of information pages (web pages) became the basis of the future World Wide Web.

The technology went beyond CERN and became available to other research institutes in January 1991, and then on 23 August 1991 to the general public. The network was a success at CERN and began to spread to other scientific and academic institutions. Over the next two years, 50 websites were created.

A turning point

In 1993, CERN made the WWW protocol and code free to use, allowing it to be widely distributed. After NCSA released the Mosaic web browser that same year, the WWW rapidly grew in popularity, with thousands of sites appearing in less than a year. Mosaic was a graphical browser that could display embedded images and submit forms that were handled by an HTTPd server.

The following year, Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Netscape and released the Navigator browser, which brought Java and JavaScript to the web. It quickly became the dominant browser. In 1995, Netscape became a public company, causing an Internet sensation and the start of the dot-com bubble. In response, Microsoft developed Internet Explorer, starting a browser war. Bundled with Windows, it became the dominant browser for 14 years.

It is curious that the Internet as an information and communication network existed before that, but became a truly mass phenomenon only with the invention of the WWW and browsers with an intuitive interface. To realize the WWW project, Berners-Lee and his colleagues developed the URI identifier, the HTTP protocol, and the HTML language, without which the World Wide Web would hardly have become so mainstream.

Berners-Lee was also the creator of the world’s first web server and the first website, which became available on August 6, 1991 at http://info.cern.ch/. This resource contained information about installing and using a web server, browser, and more. Later, lists of links to other web sites were also posted here. Today there are more than 1.1 billion sites, but far fewer are active – about 200 million.

The evolution

In the 1990s, websites contained mostly text and static images. Internet access was slow and animations and interactivity severely limited. By the turn of the new millennium, 44% of North Americans were using the Internet.

Only in the last two decades has this network become truly global, as the percentage of users has increased dramatically in all regions, including Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and more. Today, 64% of the world’s inhabitants are Internet users, which is approximately 5.16 billion people.

As early as 1993, users could search for information about films and actors on a fan website that ran on the servers of Cardiff University’s Faculty of Computer Science and later became known as IMDb (the system appeared in 1990). Five years later, users could search for books and read reviews on Amazon’s drab, text-filled home page.

In 1998, the Google search engine appeared, which by the end of that year had about 60 million pages in the index. Started as a research project by two students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the website has become the most popular search engine in the world.

From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

The growing popularity of the web coincided with the ubiquity of e-mail. In the late nineties, the growth in the number of websites was provided by entrepreneurs who started to engage in e-commerce. In the early 2000s, the first social networks appeared, more diverse content became available to users, and they began to gradually transform from content consumers to content creators.

This transition has been described as the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. It started in 2004 and continues to this day. A comparison of the most visited sites in 1993 and 2023 clearly shows the difference in internet usage patterns, with social media currently dominating the rankings. Statistics show that Facebook users send 510,000 comments, 293,000 status updates and 136,000 photos every minute.

The decision by Berners-Lee and CERN to put the World Wide Web into the hands of the public changed the lives of future generations. People under 30 grew up in a world of open access to information, acquired skills, habits and a vocabulary of words that simply did not exist before the advent of the global network.

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