Can we imagine life without the World Wide Web?

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You have a doubt? Just google! Want to know more about something? No problem at all… look it up online. Do you have information or even a thought that you want to share with the world? Post it on a relevant site. How about ordering a pizza? Oh, there are several ways to do this. Can you even imagine a life without the World Wide Web?

It was 1989. Tim Berners-Lee was really tired of having to switch computers every time he wanted to access different information. He used to work at CERN – the particle physics lab in Switzerland – and now he came up with a proposal for an information management system that his boss thought was “vague but exciting”. Berners-Lee was encouraged to pursue the idea further. By using HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), Berners-Lee indeed lost the “vague” part and in December 1990, the thrilling World Wide Web was born. HTML, URL and HTTP remain familiar to us today despite the countless transformations web development has undergone and thus remains the premier website – http://info.cern.ch

The World Wide Web (Berners-Lee thought of calling it “Information Mesh”, “The Information Mine”, and “Mine of Information” before settling on the Web) was first created to help scientists share information transparently with each other. But Tim Berners-Lee was clear that such a powerful tool should be available to everyone. So he released the source code for free and today we have this marvel that everyone can use. Sir Tim was knighted and feted, but he never made any money directly from his incredible creation.

In 1992, there were only ten web servers in the world. Today there are more than 100 million. However, the date we need to remember is April 30, 1993. That was when people and businesses started creating their own websites.

Many of us use the words ‘internet’ and ‘web’ without distinguishing between the two. However, they are not the same. The Internet is a network of connected computers, while the Web refers to the set of web pages available on it. Using the Internet to access the web is like taking roads to get to specific places. The Web is part of the Internet.

Physicist Russel Seitz concluded that all the data we send every day, and therefore the Internet itself, would only weigh about 50 grams! Google alone receives around 5.6 billion search queries every day. The most marked word? YouTube, of course. We watch over 5 billion videos every day. This is even though the first video was only uploaded to the site in 2005. File sharing and media streaming account for more than half of web traffic. About half of internet consumers are Asian – no surprise there.

After leaving CERN, Sir Tim saw his creation grow beyond his wildest dreams. Concerned with the power of the Web, in 1994 he created the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international standardization organization for the World Wide Web. On the Web’s 30th anniversary, he published an open letter in which he articulated a word of caution amid all the euphoria, “as the Web has created opportunity, given voice to marginalized groups, and facilitated our daily lives, it has also created opportunities for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hate, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

By the way, someone placed the first online order in 1994. It was at Pizza Hut!

(Valsala is a writer and soft skills and communication trainer.)

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