The creation of the world wide web is attributed to Sir Berners Lee in 1989. Lee was working as a fellow at the CERN Laboratory (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland when he first outlined his concept of “a computer platform that could facilitate collaboration among researchers who were based in different parts of the world”.
The Hypertext Mark-up Language was born later in 1990. It then became the fundamental building block of the world wide web. Today, people refer to the world wide web as simply the “web”. We are going to maintain this name for simplicity in explaining the concepts in this article.
Accessing the Web
Software applications were also developed to provide a user interface to access the services at the webserver. These were called clients. A good example of this is a web browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari or Opera.
To retrieve a web resource, the user specifies a URL in the web browser’s address or clicks a hyperlink in a document. URL is the short form for Uniform Resource Locator which is a name that corresponds to an internet protocol address in the domain name server.
The browser on receiving the input will translate the address to an internet protocol and employ an HTTP request to send and receive content back content to the browser from the web servers.
The HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) takes care of the communication between a web server and a web browser. It is used for sending requests from web browsers to web servers and returning the web content from the server back to the browser. The browser then translates it to give a human-readable display.
The Evolution of the Web: From Static Websites to a Single Operating System
Since the first concept of the web by Sir Berners Lee, it has undergone huge transformations to become one of the most innovative parts of the internet. The improvements to the web can be captured in the form of the following main stages:
To begin with, this is the first implementation of the web. It was considered a “read-only-web”.
A small number of writers created web pages for a large number of readers. This is the most striking characteristic of web 1.0. It was about information sharing and establishing an online presence.
Therefore, people would get information by directly visiting the web pages. It then became a system of interconnected hypertext documents, with fewer graphical and multimedia files that were accessed over the internet.
This means that websites of those days had fewer images and videos embedded in them. Less or sometimes no animations were added during the styling of the web pages making them static.
This version of the web is the social web or the “read-write-web”. It was referred to as the “read-write-web” because it introduced the ability of users to contribute content to the web and interact with other web users.
Further, technologies and design concepts had evolved. The creators of this web were more focused on making the experience of their users more interactive. The main aim was to make web visitors not just passive consumers of information but also interconnected and empowered with tools to help them become co-creators of this content.
This gave birth to the social media platforms that allowed users to contribute content by writing posts, posting photos, publishing videos, and interacting with other users through online chats, reactions and comments.
Also, it allowed the development of e-commerce, online collaboration tools, e-learning, web-based forums, online file sharing and email services. Websites like YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail, among others, are perfect examples of the power of web 2.0.
This version of the web is about shared data and is often described as a “read-write-execute” web.
It is mainly identified by its characteristic of technologies that focus more on upgrading the back-end of the web to make it more useful to humans. It describes the “evolution of web usage and interaction that includes transforming the web into a database.” The aim is to make web content more accessible by multiple browser applications by using artificial intelligence technologies that improve human-machine interactions.
Also, web 2.0 technologies remain a very important enabler of the innovations behind web 3.0. People are using these technologies as an enabling platform to produce high-quality content and distribute it over the web.
Consequently, web browsers have become more advanced. A single web search triggers the browser to analyse all your inputs, search the internet for all relevant answers and organise the results for you according to the order of their significance to your search entry.
It is important to note that we are currently operating and developing the web under this web version.
Earlier, owning a website meant that you had to hire a programmer to code your site. These days, there has emerged no-code software that is created by the most talented programmers to help non-technical people to create, manage and maintain their websites. These tools include content management systems such as Wix, Drupal, and the popular WordPress.
Web 4.0 is predicted to be “the next web”. It will be an ultra-electronic agent whose revolution will be fuelled by the “internet of things” and the fourth industrial revolution.
In addition, the entire web is predicted to become a single operating system where the information flows from any point to the other. It will be about interconnectedness and asynchronous sharing of information in what will be called a web operating system.
So much promising tech for the future, right? That makes me look at the future with more optimism.
We have seen how the world wide web has and is developing from a digital platform for generating, sharing and refining information to an open-source digital information system on the internet. All this started as an idea by Sir Berners Lee in a research lab with the aim of connecting researchers with similar research interests.
The development has resulted in changes in human behaviour by promoting the creation of open communities and opening communication channels.
For example, we have been so much involved in the creation and curation of web content lately. Most of what we consume online in terms of news and entertainment is content generated by web users.
The Covid 19 pandemic just proved to the whole world how important the web is. It played an important role in uniting families and communities during the lockdown period. We saw an upsurge in content creation efforts by musicians, entertainers, educational institutions and casual web visitors looking to connect with other humans on the web.
Also, newer platforms such as TikTok accelerated their growth in the user base because they supported the idea of open communities and giving people the power to communicate openly online. Zoom Video Communications also became part of our daily lives. We have seen first-hand the power of the world wide web.
More is yet to come and I am super excited about what the next generation of the world wide web will be offering!
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.