How the World Wide Web led to an internet revolution

As the world thanks Tim Berners-Lee for making the web public some 25 years ago, here's a look at a few key developments that resulted in how we use the internet today.

Photo Source: Flickr/Christiaan Colen
Photo Source: Flickr/Christiaan Colen

The dial-up connection box as seen on a computer using Windows 98.

Swipe. Tap. Read. You are currently viewing this article on a screen, a device that is receiving and sending information to and from a server in the form of hertz (Hz) frequencies. Hertz frequencies are converted into 1s and 0s when they reach your gadget’s wireless chip, transforming those bits into information. You are reading this article because of the internet. 

In a slightly contentious celebration, Internaut Day is celebrated on August 23 to mark the day the internet was made accessible to the public 25 years ago. The Web Foundation, founded by Tim Berners-Lee (the man who invented the World Wide Web), states, "By the end of 1990, the first Web page was served on the open internet" without stating a particular date in 1991.

Be it August 23, 1991 or earlier, the fact is the internet was made public using the World Wide Web, more popularly known as WWW, an invention by Tim Berners-Lee, a contractor at CERN. Yes, the internet and the World Wide Web are not transposable terms and here's a quick look at how the two entities function and came to be.  

The internet had been around long before the general public had access to it in the form of ARPANET, (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). ARPANET was the internet in its baby stages, before it bloomed into the large directory of information that we know today and so, initially consisted of limited networks.

In 1969, the first message was sent to another computer through the ARPANET. It was initially only used in UCLA and Stanford laboratories before other networks were added to ARPANET. 

It was in 1971 that Vincent Cerf, a computer scientist, found a way of connecting computers on a virtual level through transmission control protocol, or what later came to be known as Internet Protocol (IP). 

Then came Tim Berners-Lee, who became the father of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, a tool that allowed anyone in the general public with an internet connection to gain access to a vast network of information.

According to the first web page that was ever created, the aim of the world wide web was to “give universal access to a large universe of documents.” 

Berners-Lee, had the first web page go live on August 6,1991, but only to scientists across the world. Some say it was two weeks later, on the 23rd, that the general public gained access to what is possibly the most life changing invention on this planet. 

As of August 23, 2016, there are 4.73 billion web pages.

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee appears onstage at the 2014 Webby Awards on Monday, May 19, 2014, in New York.

The World Wide Web would not be possible without HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) - the way by which files are transferred over the internet - and HyperText Markup Language (HTML) - the language that helps to describe web pages -  both of which were also created by Berners-Lee in 1990.

WWW would also not be functional without Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the unique address that is used to access web pages.  

The internet and the debates that surround it these days sidestep how once an almost magical world of possibilities is now commonplace and literally at our fingertips almost everywhere we go.

It was first only accessible through a dial-up connection, where electronic devices had to physically be connected in order to access the internet. Now the internet is something that exists in the air around us. 

While the internet survived the much-hyped Y2K and has made it possible to reach women in rural areas to guide them through their pregnancies, it has also been used as a tool that hackers use to obtain private information, addtionally playing host to the deep web which includes the dark net. There have been frequent attempts to regulate the information that can be accessed over the internet, spurring debates over the concept of net neutrality. 

It is, at the end of the day, a means that gives us the potential to connect with many people, whether it be through social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter or Tor a browser that allows people to communicate anonymously online. With a swipe and a few taps, we have advanced to a civilisation that is privy to more information than any generation before us.