The Evolution of Word Wide Web


World Wide Web (WWW) is the system of interlinked hypertext documents containing text, images, audio, videos, animation and more. User can view and navigate through these documents using hyperlinks or navigation elements which have references to another document or to the section of the same document. In a broader sense “The World Wide Web is the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge.”

History of World Wide Web

WWW was first proposed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau while working at the CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research. Both of them came out with their individual proposal for Hypertext systems and later on they united and offered joint proposal. The term “Word Wide Web” was first introduced in that joint proposal. The history of every invention has lot of pre-history. Similarly the World Wide Web has also lot of pre-historical gradual development of hypertext system and internet protocols which made the WWW possible. The gradual development started in the early 1945, with the development of Memex, a device based on microfilms for storing huge amount of documents and facilitating organizing those documents. Later in 1968 “Hypertext” was introduced, which made linking and organization of documents fairly easy. In 1972 DARPA (Defense Advance Research Project Agency), started project that connect all research centers to facilitate data exchange which later adopted for military information exchange. In 1979 SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) was invented to enable sharing of documents for large government project by separating content from the presentation and thereby enabling same document to be rendered in different ways. In 1989 Tim Berners-lee came out with Networked Hypertext system form CERN Laboratory. In 1990, joint proposal for hyper text system was presented and the term “World Wide Web” first introduced. In 1992 first portable browser was released by CERN, and that had picked up industry interest in internet development. Today web is so much popularized and has grown to be so invaded in to our lives; it becomes almost impossible to imagine the World without web.

Web Evolution – What and How?

Each technology has certain distinguished characteristics and features. Similarly web has certain features such as data, services, mess-up, APIs, social platform and more. These features are continuously and progressively evolving in distinct stages with qualitative improvements over the existing. Web evolution is categorized and hyped with some fancy marketing terms like “Web 1.0”, “Web 2.0”, “Social Web”, “Web 3.0”, “Pragmatic Semantic Web”, “Pragmatic Web” and many more.

Yihong Ding, PHD candidate at Brigham Young University, in his article on “Evolution of Web” explained the development of Web by analogically comparing it with the human growth. Yihong Ding stated “The relationship between web pages and their webmasters is similar to the relationship between children and their parents. As well as parents raise their children, webmasters maintain and update their web pages. Human children have their normal stages of development, such as the newborn stage, pre-school stage, elementary-school stage, teenage stage, and so on. Analogically, web has its generations, such as Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and so on.”

Along with technological advancement web design also changed over the period of time. Initial design was simple hypertext read only system which allowed users to read the information. User was just a viewer of what is presented on the web. Gradually images and tables added with evolution of HTML and web browsers, which allowed making better design. Development of photo-editing tools, web authoring tools and content management tools enabled designer to begin creating visually appealing website design layouts. In the next phase of development, web design changed with the change in usability and the focus is diverted on the users rather than the content of the website. User interaction and social touch is applied to the web design. Now user is not just a viewer. User can drive the web with feedback, information sharing, rating and personalization. Gradually we got the mature blend of function, form, content and interaction, called Read/Write Web. Continuing this evolution, meaning is added to the information presented on the web so that online virtual representatives of human can able to read and interprets the presented information. This kind of web where user agent imitating human behavior, can read and understand the information using artificial intelligence is called semantic web.

Web 1. 0 (Read Only Web)

World Wide Web is evolved in stages. First stage was the basic “Read Only” hypertext system also termed as Web 1.0 since the hype of Web 2.0. In fact in the original proposed web model, Tim Berners-Lee envisioned web as the Read/Write Model with HTTP PUT and HTTP DELETE method. These methods were almost never used just because of security reasons.

Some of the Characteristics of Web 1.0

1. In Web 1.0 web master is constantly engaged with responsibility of managing the content and keeps user updating. Majority of hyperlinks to the contents are manually assigned by the web master.

2. Web 1.0 does not support mass-publishing. The content on the website is published by the web master and thereby does not leverage the collective intelligence of users.

3. Web 1.0 uses basic hyper text mark up language for publishing content on the internet.

4. Web 1.0 pages do not support machine readable content. Only human who are web readers can understand the content.

5. Web 1.0 provides contact information (email, phone number, fax or address) for communication. Users have to use the off-line world for further communication with this contact information.

6. In Web 1.0, web pages are designed to react instinctively based on the programmed condition. Specific result or response is generated when the programmed condition is satisfied. Web 1.0 model does not understand remote request and can not prepare response for potential request in advance. To clearly understand above characteristics of web 1.0, Yihong Ding in his article on “Evolution of World Wide Web” has analogically correlated World of Web 1.0 with the world of a Newborn baby.