The World Wide Web enters its mid-twenties tomorrow — it’s hard to believe it now, but right about the time the Soviet Union was beginning to crumble we were already contemplating our new online lives.
Ask the question “who invented the Internet and when” and you’re entering a debate that’s surprisingly hard to resolve. There is no shortage of theories and arguments — depending on how exactly you want to define what the web actually is — but it’s fairly safe to say that it wasn’t Al Gore.
A new report from the Pew Research Center marks what it calls the World Wide Web’s 25th anniversary: On March 12, 1989 computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote of a information management system destined to become the blueprints for the Internet’s architecture. He later released the code for his system (for free) and the rest, as they say, is history.
That got us thinking about how much the Internet has changed and evolved since Berners-Lee put pen to paper a quarter of a century ago — here we present a few highlights.
Mid-nineties : IPv6 Foresight
Just seven years into its existence and some of us had already realized this whole ‘everything and everyone connected’ thing was going to take off big time. IP addresses, the string of digits that allow computers and other devices to chat with each other via the web, are finite. IPv4, the most common version of IP address protocol, is 32 bits long and we’ve nearly run through all the possible variations it presents. Twenty years ago they were making wild predictions of Internet meltdowns, so they began to plan for IPv6, the newest generation of IP addresses with an almost limitless supply of addresses.
Remember when you had one family desktop hooked up to the net with a wire? Those days were numbered from 1997 when the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers rolled out a set of standards for wireless communication via the Internet. It was an awesome idea and it changed the way we interact with our computers forever — and Wi-Fi’s story of growth and development has gone hand in hand with the wider Internet.
It’s laughable now, but the fear on December 31, 1999 was palpable as the world watched to see if an Australia heading into the next millennium would cause digital systems to crash. The entire globe was poised for computerized chaos — best anticlimax ever.
2007: The Original iPhone
The launch of the first iPhone back in 2007 could be seen as the first significant milestone towards mobile computing. Apple’s tagline for the product was “This is only the beginning,” and they couldn’t have been more right, so much so that the original iPhone has almost become a collectors item — yours for just $100 on eBay.
2010 – Present: The Arab Spring
The Arab spring as we know it is defined by the Internet — protests organized on Facebook, children named Hashtag in celebration of revolutions and governments shutting down web connections in an attempt to stem the spread of uprisings. This poster was placed on a lamppost in Cairo on February 1, 2011 when the Internet was shut down.
2013: Miley Cyrus
The VMA awards last year had one resounding takeaway message: Miley Cyrus is a child star no more. Her shock tactics gave way to viral publicity (more than she knew what to do with) and presented wave after wave of op-eds from people coming out in favor of her performance, and others not so favorably.
Let’s talk about Whatsapp, arguably one of the biggest Internet stories of this year. Facebook’s inexplicably extravagant bid for the messaging app prompted social media to list all the things they could have purchased instead. Like an aircraft carrier or 32 Hawaiian islands.