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Happy Birthday World Wide Web!

Happy Birthday World Wide Web

The first time I signed into a chat room, nearly 16 years ago, I don’t think I realized how young World Wide Web actually was. At that time I knew about America Online, Netscape Navigator, and CompuServe; in fact I thought everyone knew about those things. The reality is, I was there during the infancy of our dear friend World Wide Web.

As this March approaches and we come to the 21st anniversary of the first WWW page to go online, I have been taking a proverbial “trip down memory lane.” I can still hear that cordial voice informing me of the fact that “You’ve got mail.” I have an image burned into my mind of the AltaVista and HotBot search engine home pages. And I vividly recall the sound of my modem dialing in.

An awful lot has changed in the past twenty-one years. We no longer have to wait to connect when checking our email; we do not even have to use a computer! Your “status” can be updated at any time, from any place. Our news doesn’t come from a single paper or a few TV channels; we use readers and RSS aggregators to pick and choose what we want to hear about from literally thousands of sources. And “Google” isn’t just a search engine, it’s a verb…. how often do you Google your own name?

In the Beginning


Towards the end of 1989, Sir Tim Berners Lee envisioned a system of inter-connected computers which could be used to learn anything you wished to know. Along with Robert Cailliau, a Belgian computer scientist, Sir Tim put the earliest web server online using the NeXT Computer System, a high-end workstation computer which ran a Unix-based operating system. They also wrote the first web server application called CERN HTTPd, and the initial browser, WorldWideWeb. The first live URL ever was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html; in fact it is still a valid address, making it also the oldest URL in history.

NeXT Web server, Google Data Center

What began as a tool to aid physicists in sharing information amongst each other has evolved into a global network that links all of us together. Sir Lee made the brilliant move of making his ideas publicly available and free for the taking, thus allowing millions of people to come together to expound on and expand upon his work. The idea of open source or free software was picked up by developers of other browsers such as Mosaic, Netscape (Mozilla) and even Microsoft.

Today’s most popular web server software, Apache, is open source as well. All of this has combined to allow everyone to experience and use the web with relatively low cost. Like the internet’s technological predecessors of radio and television, people have the ability to take part in the fun without the need to mortgage their home, which has helped to create this enormous World Wide Web tidal wave.

A “Coming of Age” Story

Netcraft LTd, a company that has taken on the task of surveying the entire internet, estimates that there are currently 206,741,990 web sites. Using search engine statistics, WorldWideWebSize.com calculates a total of 23.2 billion unique pages exist. From humble origins on a single computer, to a global behemoth of billions of connected devices and people, World Wide Web certainly has come a long way in twenty-one short years! And, might I add, hasn’t really aged at all; like a fine wine, it simply becomes more valuable with each passing year.

Join me in my sentimental journey and think back to your first experiences going online. Think of the first search engine you used; maybe you were as impressed as I was when you got 30,000 results. Or perhaps you also had a Geocities web site, most of which was written entirely in Notepad. Do you remember the first time you LOL’d?

What experiences come to your mind when thinking of your first visit with World Wide Web?

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15 Comments

  1. Posted February 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    We’ve definitively come very far when it comes to the internet, and I am very happy for it, I think we still have a long ways to go, I think the internet is still evolving. As far as my experiences, I actually joined the party late… I surfed my first website around 1999, hehe, and I was about 12 years old at the time so my memory of it is quite vague.

  2. Posted February 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Cody – Thanks for making me feel even older than I am :)
    Amazingly, I do in fact remember Compuserve, Netscape, etc.. But I will go one farther for you .. Waaaay back in the real early 1990′s I was part of the US VideoTel network as a beta tester in Dallas, Texas. These were stand-alone terminals, referred to as “boxes” and the idea was anyone that had a “box” could chat real-time with others on the network.. Granted, at this time, IRC’s were not anywhere near what they became years later. Back then, the infamous “Dial Tones” became a sound that we all loved to hear, and a connection speed of 9600 was considered lightning fast. We had no “facebook” or any other social sites back then, and US VideoTel was (in Dallas anyway) a absolute social frenzy.. The first actual “website” I ever ventured onto was AltaVista (which I still use), and back in 1996 they were the absolute best.. Growing up I had a old TRS 80 Model 2 color computer that I literally cold dialed till it broke (With my trusty modem that you had to drop the handset into to make it work).. Oh lord I need to quit jabbering before I end up typing a book :)
    Thanks for the memory recalls! Hope you have a great week and try not to work too hard :)
    Robert B.
    WestHost Client and #1 Fan :)

  3. Posted February 16, 2010 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday World Wide Web! nice post for telling wide area network that is used to compressed all world.

  4. Posted February 22, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Westhost had a 24 hour downtime over the last weekend. We lost a huge amount of sales, which is fine, things happen, but there has been no email sent out from westhost about the outage. No apology, no explanation, nothing.

    My secondary hard drive was apparently ruined in the outage. I am still losing sales and have a flood of customer complaints coming in. Tech support was not helpful at all and I felt like they were blowing me off so that the next crew could take care of the problem that the outage created on my server.

    After many years of being a happy westhost customer I am really disappointed with their recent treatment of customers.
    I am losing thousands of dollars and our business’ reputation is being harmed and they do not seem to care.

    Mark Lewis
    Partners In Rhyme
    http://www.partnersinrhyme.com

  5. Posted February 25, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Well said, Mark.

    If your site was only down for 24 hours, you are one of the lucky ones. My site has been offline for FIVE DAYS now. WestHost ignores my emails. As you said, no apology, no updates since Tuesday…nothing.

    I’ve been a WestHost customer for nine years, but I am looking for a new hosting company. All this time offline, with no answers to my inquiries, is simply unacceptable.

    I would have been gone already were it not for the fact that my site has an online forum. And wouldn’t you know it, that is the only part of my site that I do not have a backup of. So I am waiting to see if they still have it before moving on.

    I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this: Never trust any hosting company to back your site up for you. Do it yourself instead.

    Soon to be a FORMER WestHost customer,

    Ron Ramirez
    http://www.philcoradio.com

  6. Posted February 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Ron and Mark, as a member of the WestHost team I have a first hand witness to the amount of concern, effort and money being placed to fully restore your services; even though this outage was not a mistake by any WestHost personnel or systems.

    We have many, many employees who have left their regular desk in the office, their families and spent countless hours in the data center. We have also sent several emails, spent many hours working with clients on the forum, set up a new section in the members area of our Web site (http://netstatus.westhost.com) to name a few.

    We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and frustration this outage has caused you. As the emails/forums/etc have stated, we will provide compensation for your down-time in the form of free month(s) of service. We are committed to providing you with the highest level of service possible, and will be providing more information on your server status. Thank you for your patience.

  7. Posted February 27, 2010 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    We are still dealing with issues that Nelson and McLuhan discussed. Forty years … technology takes time to become absorbed into culture.

  8. Posted March 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Telling content authors that a workable fallback solution *must* exist for would have either stopped BeSpin in its tracks, or challenged its creators to solve the problem before launching the application.

  9. Posted March 12, 2010 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    The web is a big messy thing and will evolve rapidly just like the rest of our experiences. We have to embrace that while making sure it remains open to all.

  10. Posted March 12, 2010 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, it’s been quite a remarkable ride so far. Don’t think any of us could’ve imagined it would be this big by now. Probably one of the biggest achievments of humanity. Here’s a to a long life.

    Till then,

    Jean

  11. Posted March 12, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Hi happy birthday word wide web this day was very great day for internet.

  12. Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Speaking of hearing dial up modems, I can’t believe that in 2010 there are still areas of the USA who don’t have access to broadband. I have a friend who I play competitive online gaming with, who still does not have broadband and is on believe it or not… 56k! He lives out in DeRidder, Louisiana.

    Great post though, brings back some good ol memories!

  13. Posted June 21, 2010 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    I made a fortune by dumping my (then meager) life savings into a on an unknown company with a ticket symbol AMER back in 1993. Withing a few years, unknown AMER changed its ticket symbol to AOL and became a household name. Years later, woo hoo, my investment was worth enough to buy Sweden and have money left over for a down payment on Australia. Well not literally, but kinda. Unfortunately for me, I got greedy and held on, assuming AOL would continue to double every few nanoseconds, like it did for 7 gloriously lucrative years. Poof, AOL got greedy bought Time Warner in a very messy deal that wrecked both companies, the dotbomb bubble imploded, the entire AOL house of cards came crashing down. Fortunately I didn’t lose money, but I barely got out with my original investment intact. Oh well, roll back the clock to 1993. It was nice while it lasted.

    Rock on World Wide Web. But I’ll bet you don’t remember WWWW the World Wide Web Worm, one of the early web crawlers.

  14. Posted July 8, 2010 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    The web has come a long way. I remember being in AOL chatrooms and playing around when my parents weren’t looking. Not we have Facebook, youtube, and all these advances. What’s funny is, the web is still in its infancy. We have a lot more that we can do with it.

  15. Posted July 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    If you think about how far the web has come in such a short period of time it only leaves you wondering what is to come in the future. It’s hard for anyone to fathom the sorts of technologies and amazing advances we will have in the near future let alone in another 15 years. I for one can’t wait. Happy birthday WWW.

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