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The Recent History of the World Wide Web

by  David Dwyer on  31/08/2015

Revolution & Evolution – The Changing Face of The World Wide Web


Moving from Web 1.0 to The Internet of Things

The Internet has become an ever-present part of our daily lives. It's the often-invisible engine that drives so much of what we see and do. For many, the connected World in which we live is cherished, while, for others, it is something to be feared. The only thing that we can all agree on is that the Internet as we know it today will be much different in the future.


Since my University days, I’ve been a student of Economic History. Edmund Burke’s - ‘Those who don’t know history, are doomed to repeat it’ quote reminds me that knowing our past can inform our future. It’s worth remembering that although technological advancements have enabled the evolution of the web, the critical driver has been the shift in user behaviour, psychology and expectations.


The purpose of this post is to share the story of the web by looking at the distinct phases of the history of the Internet. Such is the nature of the web that there will always be blurred lines between the phases, and in some cases complete overlaps. With that caveat aside, these are the phases.


Web 1.0

This was the age of the static web where interactions between users and websites were limited to searching and reading. At the time, these flat, plain HTML only websites were revolutionary. During the early days of the web, there wasn't an awful lot to do, other than admiring this new 'toy'. Wondering just how the combination of computer, telephone line and dial-up modem worked. The best description of Web 1.0 comes from Sir. Tim Berners-Lee, the founding father of the Internet, who refers to the early web as 'the read-only web'.


Web 2.0

Those of a certain vintage will recall the days of Web 1.0 with great fondness, however for the majority Web 2.0 is the web, as most know it. This era started in the late 90's, and in simplest terms is the point at which the Internet moved from being static, to dynamic in nature. That change was largely driven by the emergence of database driven websites, which among other things, gave users the ability to register on sites. The new features, capabilities and richer content brought about by Web 2.0 changed forever the way in which web pages were developed, designed and used.


Web 2.0 also made the entire concept of social media possible. Without it, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and every other social platform that followed wouldn't be possible, although, to some, that might not be a bad thing! Web 2.0 is also responsible for the birth and growth of blogging, effectively enabling anyone to become a publisher. Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 overlapped with the emergence of HTML 5.


Web 3.0

Although it is still a source of much debate, Web 3.0 is broadly considered to be the web era we're currently in today. It's sometimes referred to as the 'semantic web' or the 'smarter web'. This refers the fact that sites can now apply levels of artificial intelligence to know what content you'd like to see and how you'd like to see it. It's the technology that allows the BBC News website to serve up related news items based on the current news items your reading. It does this all in real time, behind the scenes in a fraction of a second. I’m sure you’ve noticed the fact that certain adverts appear to follow you across different websites you visit; this is called ‘retargeting’ and is an example of the semantic web at work. The cookie messages you see on most websites are a consequence of this marketing technique, as the EU put in place legal measures to protect users privacy.


Web 3.0 is still evolving and is a long way from being considered as 'standard'. But any time one of your favourite websites adds personalisation features, or you notice suggested posts or products have been added, you can be sure that it is Web 3.0 that is driving the development.


The Internet of Things

The next era, and indeed the future of the Internet, is known as The Internet of Things. Often shortened to IoT, it's the concept of connecting any electronic device to the Internet. From connected fridges, washing machines, self-drive cars and home entertainment systems, the possibilities for the Internet of Things appears to be limited only by the imagination of innovative product developers, designers and brands.


The IoT has a long way to go to win over its many critics. For some, the concern relates to the potential privacy and criminal implications of corporations having more access to our data. While others level claims that that this particular web era is nothing more than hype - a style over substance situation. But if manufacturers focus on solving real world problems by making life simpler for consumers, then wide scale adoption will surely follow.


The Future of the Future

As sure as night follows day, there will be new eras of the Internet, as well as new explanations for what has gone before. For us, it's an exciting and challenging time to be alive. For our clients whatever the future holds, we'll make sure we're there for them offering practical insights and advice as we shift seamlessly from one age of the web to another.


David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.


Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

Digital Trends, Disruptive not Disrupting Tech, Internet of Things, Technology Innovation, The Evolving Web, Uber, Web Consultancy
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