Posted by David Hodson-Whittle on 18 August 2016 | Comments

As well as our observing own 25-year anniversary in 2016, there’s another important quarter-century celebration we are excited for. The World Wide Web (W3) has now been available to the public for two-and-a-half-decades. It’s had an incredible impact upon the modern world, changing the ways in which we share information, communicate, and – of course – do business.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into this amazing invention.

The History of the World Wide Web

W3 was created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 as a way for physicists to easily share and access data over the internet. Working at CERN after graduating from Oxford University, Berners-Lee observed that scientists would come from across the globe to use the organisation’s particle accelerators, but there was no easy way for them to transport or access their data.

According to Berners-Lee;

‘In those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee.’

It’s interesting to note that the official 25th anniversary of the web was celebrated in 2014, because that was a quarter-century after Berner-Lee conceived the idea and began working on it. However, the web was not released onto the internet for another year, when the first ever web page was published. Because it wasn’t until 1991 that people from outside of CERN were invited to become part of the web community, you could say this is when the web truly transformed from concept into reality.

In 1993, after the idea was strongly advocated by Berners-Lee and others associated with the project, CERN announced that the underlying coding of the web would remain royalty free forever. This is perhaps one of the most important decisions of the modern world; it democratised the technology and made sure information was freely accessible to all.

It was this announcement, made in April 1993, that sparked a rush of activity and saw many flocking to make the most of the internet. The impetus has never let up, continuing to grow to the state it is today.

What’s the Difference Between the Internet and the World Wide Web?

You may have noticed in the previous section we explained that the web was ‘released onto the internet’. Many people think the internet and the web are the same thing. It’s true that the terms are often used interchangeably, but the internet predates the web by several decades. Put simply, the internet is the ‘hardware’ and the web is the ‘software’.

The internet is a giant network, linking smaller networks together to create a global system for sharing and accessing data.

W3, on the other hand, is a way of accessing that data. The web uses software like internet browsers to decode and display the data your computer receives over the internet. Think of it like File Explorer on your PC; it helps you locate and open programmes and documents on your hard drive. It requires a hard drive to work, but File Explorer is not a hard drive itself. So the web relies upon the internet, but the internet does not rely upon the web.

The Next 25 Years of the Web

So, what’s next for the web? There are several different ideas regarding how the World Wide Web could evolve. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is focussed on making sure that the web remains free and democratised. From a marketing point of view, the quest is always to improve the usability of the web. From web design to search engine optimisation, technology is becoming more advanced to allow users to access exactly what they want, where and when they want it as well.

It may seem that the web is so complex, and changing so fast, that it is impossible for a business to keep on top of it all. However, there is one simple rule to remember about the web, a rule that is unlikely to change any time soon: people use it to solve a problem. That problem could be that they need to buy a new computer, that they need advice on bookkeeping, or that they are bored and need something to entertain them. Every step forward that the web takes allows it to provide better value. As long as companies heed this, they will find the web a valuable tool for their business. Those looking only to get and not to give are going to be increasingly left behind.

Happy 25th Anniversary to the World Wide Web!

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