Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See - InformationWeek

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3/12/2014
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Thomas Claburn
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Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See

Tim Berners-Lee's proposal changed the world. These visual representations show what his World Wide Web has become.
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The World Wide Web turns 25 today, March 12, 2014, and despite what you may have heard, it's good for you. Nevermind the malware, the fraud, the trolls, the porn, the flames, the misinformation, the surveillance, the hate speech, and the rickrolling, time-wasting, fatuous social stew that passes for human interaction. We have only ourselves to blame for that.

The Web has become an indispensable communications medium, capable of conveying content that ranges from banal to brilliant, from silly to sublime. It has become an interface for democratic participation, for commerce, for science, for health, for advertising, and for entertainment. It is a doorway to connection and to contention. It is an economic engine.

The Web is not the Internet, though many people believe they're the same thing. Type "25th anniversary of the" into Google and its autocomplete algorithm will suggest "25th anniversary of the Internet" before "25th anniversary of the World Wide Web."

This may be in part because there was a celebration of 25th anniversary of the Internet in 2006. It was a recognition of the formal standardization of the Internet Protocol (IP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), through publication of RFC 791 and RFC 793, in September 1981. But you could choose other relevant dates to celebrate, like January 1, 1983, when the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, switched from NCP to the TCP/IP protocols.

The Internet, as a network of networks, doesn't have a single point of origin; rather, it has many milestones. And the same can be said of the Web: Some readers may recall that last year we celebrated the Web's 20th anniversary, based on the first webpage, published by CERN in 1993.

The Web was built atop the Internet, based on a proposal written March 12, 1989, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The Web is a way to present information -- text, images, and sounds --from within a software application called a Web browser, through HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

"On the Net, the connections are cables between computers; on the Web, connections are hypertext links," explains Berners-Lee on his website. "...The Web made the Net useful because people are really interested in information (not to mention knowledge and wisdom!) and don't really want to have know about computers and cables."

Berners-Lee released the first Web browser, called "WorldWideWeb" before it was renamed "Nexus," in late December 1990. Other browsers followed, most notably NCSA Mosaic 1.0, released on April 22, 1993, the first browser to display text and images together on the same page.

That changed everything. It opened a world previously inhabited by computer experts to the less technically inclined, even if many of those people subsequently retreated from the Web toward the simplicity of a social network that offers a single, commercially friendly form of expression: the "Like" button.

So here's to the Web and to hoping it survives the app-centric mobile revolution. Take a look at what Sir Tim hath wrought.

Image credit: NielsAD

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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3/12/2014 | 4:22:57 PM
Ouch: 'The browser and Web are moving us in the wrong direction.'
I remember how some people in the computer industry being turned off by the Web browser. It was such a dumb, inadequate user interface. "We're going backwards," they said. The lesson to remember is that the computer industry sometimes moves forward by going backward to an earlier, simpler state and building out again on it. Nothing simple about what goes on in the browser interface today, because it's connected to so many powerful servers on the Internet. Good images, Tom.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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3/12/2014 | 4:00:35 PM
Re: TCP and the Internet
I'm inclined to agree, Wyatt. TCP/IP should be celebrated too.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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3/12/2014 | 3:04:49 PM
The 13%
I'm going to print up a T-shirt for my mother: One Of The Proud 13%
WKash
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WKash,
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3/12/2014 | 1:51:44 PM
TCP and the Internet
No question, Tim Berners-Lee's work launched the Web as we've come to know it -- but as many will add, what he created stands on the shoulders of those who helped create the Arpanet.

I've had the good fortune to spend time with both Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Hearing them retell their stories still evokes a certain awe. It's hard to fully fathom what we do online and on our smartphones today began with the discovery of how to harness packet switching -- that made it possible for heterogeneous computers to talk to each other through a single common packet-switched network.

They showed how it was possible to create a neary infinite number of different heterogeneous packet-switched nets, as Cerf called them, to interconnect with each other as if it was all one big giant network. As Cerf later put it, "TCP (transmission control protocol) is the thing that makes the Internet the Internet."  

Hail and Happy Anniversary to Berners-Lee for unleashing the Internet for the rest of the world to use.
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