The Web is turning 30 years old this month and clearly, we’ve come a long way since Tim-Berners Lee wrote his paper proposing an information management system to facilitate information-sharing between physicists in universities and institutes around the world. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without the web; it’s permeated virtually — and not so virtually — every aspect of our lives and shaped the way do things.
Although for many the web is synonymous with the internet, they’re actually two separate things. Simply put, the internet is the infrastructure upon which the web runs alongside things like email, instant messaging, cloud services, video calling, movie streaming, file-sharing, and the list goes so on. It’s not a stretch for people to make that mistake, though, as many things you do online can be done through a web browser — including the aforementioned email, messaging, and even watching Netflix.
Thirty years has brought along a lot of changes to the World Wide Web where we’ve witnessed how it evolved from static to brimming with activity and creativity. As we commemorate another anniversary let’s look back at some of the events and milestones that helped transform the web into what it is today.
Tim Berners-Lee writes his initial proposal of what was to become the World Wide Web. The project was based on the concept of hypertext to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers at CERN.
The first web server and web site goes live. Hosted on Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, it described the basic features of the web and how it could be used.
The first browser and editor, WorldWideWeb (later renamed Nexus), is released to the public by way of Internet newsgroups.
Linus Torvalds creates Linux as a free operating system kernel. Eventually this would become the de facto OS for web servers worldwide.
CERN makes its Web technology available on a royalty-free basis. Royalty demands for competing information retrieval systems such as Gopher contributed to the adoption of CERN’s World Wide Web.
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications releases versions of the Mosaic browser for Windows and Macintosh. It was one of the first to display text and images together and its availability on popular OSes opened the Web to those outside computer science.
Beverly Hills Internet (BHI) starts Geocities, which allows users to create their own websites modeled after types of urban areas.
Yahoo! (formerly Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web) goes online as a directory of other websites, organized in a hierarchy or layers of subcategories.
WebCrawler goes online as the first Web search engine to provide full text search. At launch its database contained pages from just over 4000 different Web sites.
Mosaic Netscape is born and subsequently renamed Netscape Navigator. At its peak it held over a 90% market share.
W3C is founded. This became the official body for the governing of Internet and worldwide web standards like HTML and CSS.
Sun Microsystems releases first public implementation of Java 1.0. Major web browsers soon incorporated the ability to run Java applets within web pages, ushering the first wave of “Rich Internet Applications”.
The WikiWikiWeb becomes the first ever wiki, or user-editable website.
eBay is born as AuctionWeb as a side hobby of French-born Iranian-American computer programmer Pierre Omidyar. One of the first items sold on AuctionWeb was a broken laser pointer for $14.83.
After beginning operations in July 1995, Amazon.com announces itself publicly as the “world’s largest bookseller” with more than one million different titles.
Although Internet Explorer 1 made its debut in August 1995 as part of the Microsoft Plus! add-on package for Windows 95, it wasn’t until Microsoft integrated version 2.0 with Windows 95 OSR 1 in 1996 that the browser came to quickly dominate the market.
W3C releases the CSS level 1 recommendation.
Macromedia buys FutureWave and FutureSplash Animator becomes Macromedia Flash 1.0 — which became Adobe Flash in 2005. Interestingly, FutureWave approached Adobe with an offer to sell them FutureSplash in 1995, but Adobe turned them down at that time.
W3C publishes its first recommendation for HTML — HTML 3.2.
SixDegrees.com launches as one of the first moderately successful attempts at a modern social network. It lets users create profiles and list friends.
Netscape starts the open source Mozilla project, which would years later create Firefox.
WAP Forum releases version 1.0 of the Wireless Application Protocol, an early standard — if clunky and limited — for accessing information over a mobile wireless network.
Google is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Napster launches its peer-to-peer file sharing service. It was mostly used for music and the ease of downloading individual songs facilitated by Napster is often credited for ushering in the end of the Album Era.
Alibaba the biggest e-commerce company in Asia is founded by Jack Ma.
Pyra Labs launches Blogger, one of the earliest dedicated blog-publishing tools.
Launched a year earlier, PayPal hits 1,000,000 auctions at eBay, or about 70% of all auctions at the site.
The .com bubble reaches its peak and promptly bursts, wiping billions off the value of technology firms in the following 18 months.
Mike Bergman coins the term Deep Web to describe web content that is not indexed by standard search engines because they are either dynamically generated from queries, are unlinked or can be accessed only through an onion router such as Tor.
Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launch Wikipedia.
Napster is taken down but there’s no going back. File sharing is not going anywhere.
Friendster, one of the earliest social networks, goes live and quickly attracts millions of users as well as the media’s attention.
Apple launches the iTunes music store. Windows support came in October.
Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little launch WordPress as a fork of b2/cafelog.
Online virtual world Second Life launches.
Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis release Skype.
Flickr is born, one of the bastions of what would become the so-called web 2.0.
Facebook (then known as TheFacebook.com) launches its social network for Harvard students.
Firefox 1.0 is released and slowly begins taking back some market share from IE.
Digg begins operations as a social news aggregator that lets users discover, share and recommend web content.
First YouTube, “Me at the zoo”, is uploaded. The video is still online.
The term ‘Web 2.0’ enters the techie lexicon to describe the shift from websites merely pushing content to users, to users pushing their own ‘user generated content’ to websites.
Amazon Launches Cloud Storage and Serving via S3 and EC2, creating a much faster and cheaper alternative for startups to scale their businesses than traditional web servers.
Twitter launches and quickly gains popularity as the mobile web gets a big boost in the following year thanks to Apple. First tweet: “just setting up my twttr”.
Facebook opens up to anyone with a valid email address.
Apple brings a full browsing experience to mobile for the first time with the release of the iPhone. Since then mobile browsing has exploded on millions of iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Bitcoin is first introduced by a developer using the “Satoshi Nakamoto” pseudonym (or actual name?)
The initial draft of HTML5 is introduced.
Google counts one trillion unique URLs – after eliminating duplicate entries.
Apple launches the App Store.
Google launches the Chrome browser to avoid dependence on Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla. Google focused on performance and rapid development, and while it struggled to gain usage initially, by late 2012 it had surpassed IE and Firefox.
Pirate Bay founders found guilty, get jail sentence
Google tells Gmail users Facebook is a trap
UK government wants to block all Internet porn
Adobe stops mobile Flash development, will focus on HTML5
US Judge: an IP address is not a person
Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion, raising awareness of how incumbents were willing to part with big dollars for mobile web pioneers and the evident shift in usage favoring smartphones.
The ‘Deep Web’ gains mainstream exposure after the FBI shuts down the Silk Road, a.k.a. “the eBay of drugs.”
Edward Snowden’s disclosures about NSA’s mass surveillance programs start a conversation on what it means to be anonymous on the web.
Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19 billion betting almost 10% of the company on mobile and instant communication.
The net neutrality debate heats up as the FCC considers new rules for how the Internet works. Obama endorses net neutrality and asks the FCC to classify internet as a utility. And so the controversial and complicated issue begins…
‘Father of the Internet’ Vint Cerf warns we could be heading towards a digital Dark Age.
While ISPs in the developed world bring gigabit fiber to more places, repressed yet creative Cubans develop an illegal ‘Internet’ that connects thousands of computers.
We’ve finally run out of IPv4 addresses
Popular free VPN service, Hola, discovered to have malware-like behavior. Serves as a showcase of new ways to malware is distributed.
It’s now possible to run Windows 95 natively in your web browser.
Samsung abuses DMCA to take down GTA V exploding Note 7 mod videos.
Microsoft is bleeding web browser users. Chrome takes over IE.
Mobile web browsing becomes more popular than desktop for the first time
The rising Snapchat generation: Millennials communicate with text, but Generation Z prefers to communicate with images.
The most common passwords of 2016 have been revealed, and they’re terrible (not much has changed).
The Pirate Bay is using your CPU to mine cryptocurrencies while you browse
Researchers warn of new botnet that could take down the internet
It’s official: the FCC has killed net neutrality
Infographic: the top 100 websites by popularity (in 2017)
Roughly 50% of the world, about 3.6 billion people, now have some access to the internet. Wi-Fi is everywhere: There are around 450 million Wi-Fi networks in the world, up from about 100 million five years ago.
Browsers begin to support new web standard for password-free authentication
The inventor of the World Wide Web has unveiled a plan for a new secure internet
Over 40 percent of activity on the internet is fake
Half of all phishing sites display the padlock, making people think they’re safe
The World Wide Web turns 30 years old, it’s been one hell of a ride! It’s estimated that more than four billion people — or close to 60% of the world’s population is now online.