The World Wide Web, commonly referred to as www, turned 30 last week. Envisaged in the lab of CERN, a large nuclear physics laboratory in Switzerland, the World Wide Web was first introduced as a proposal by Tim Berners-Lee to help his colleagues in CERN share information with different computers. The proposal was initially marked ‘Vague but exciting’ by Berners-Lee’s boss Mike Sendall, who later allowed Berners-Lee to turn the proposal into a working model.
In 1990, Berners-Lee developed three fundamental technologies HTML, URI (URL), and HTTP that remain the core of the web as we know it today. He also wrote the first web page editor/browser (WorldWideWeb.app) and the first web server (httpd). In 1991, the www moved to people outside of the CERN to join and experience the new form of online community.
While internet had been around since the 1960s, it was www — a decentralised resource built on principles of universality, allowing easy accessibility of information to people connected with each other virtually as an online community — that made it relevant in terms of usability.
Acknowledging 30 years of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee wrote a post on his official website revisiting his ideas about the Web and what is next.
He said, “While the web has created opportunities, given marginalised groups a voice, and made daily lives easier, it has also created an opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.”
Reiterating his optimism on the technology he created, Berners-Lee write, “given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web”.
To mark the event, Berners-Lee also embarked on a 30-hour flight which ended in Lagos with a meeting with the Nigerian tech community.
In Lagos, he explained that his invention was driven by the need to connect the world’s population using innovation and technology.
According to him, as the Internet reshapes lives globally, people have a responsibility to make sure it is recognised as a human right.
The Internet since its creation has broken boundaries, connected people around the globe, empowered business and availed information to the citizenry at a click.
Figures recently released by the International Telecommunication Union shows that 51.2 percent of the world’s population are now online.
But that is not enough for the President of the World Wide Web Foundation, Adrian Lovett.
“We need to say now that we can’t stop here. We can’t even stop at 60, 70 or 80 percent. The Web was always meant to be for everyone, and this is our chance to redouble efforts to make sure that we secure that goal,” he said.
Former Minister of Communications, Omobola Johnson, who was also at the event suggested ways to get more women technologically empowered.
“There has got to be a deliberate effort to get women to not be afraid of technology,” she said.
“That means we need to encourage young girls from early ages to interact and engage with technology. Again, we have to start making technology an attractive option for women.”
However, in view of the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, over 11,000 survey respondents from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa shared what the Web has made possible for them today, and what they hope it will make possible for future generations.
Whilst the web has delivered many ‘firsts’, from the first website (info.cern.ch – 1990) and the first online takeaway order (pizza -1994) to the first Internet connection in space (Cisco – 2010), people’s ambitions for the Internet’s future overwhelmingly highlight what it can make possible for society.
Enabling ‘better access to education’ tops the list of respondents’ aspirations for the future of the Internet (63 percent), followed by enabling ‘better access to healthcare’ (57 percent).
Based on a survey of respondents across 13 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the findings showcase the enormous impact that the World Wide Web, as the largest application on the internet, has had in connecting people and information, over the last 30 years.
•The last 30 years: The number one thing the internet has made possible for consumers is to ‘stay up-to-date and informed’ (74 percent) followed by ‘entertainment’ (71 percent) and to ‘stay in touch with family and friends’ (70 percent). The entertainment industry (39 percent) is seen as the primary beneficiary of technological advances to-date, followed by the finance industry (31 percent).
•The next 30 years: Better access to education is the number one thing respondents want the internet to make possible over the next 30 years (63 percent) followed by better access to healthcare (57 percent). When asked which industries will benefit most from technological advancements, the top choice was ‘healthcare’ (at 34 percent) followed by ‘education’ (32 percent).
Most popular impact: ‘Connecting people’ (39 percent), ‘enhanced communication’ (35 percent) and ‘new ways of learning’ (35 percent) are seen as the top three ways in which the web has benefited society to-date.
We can’t live without it: Over a third (39 percent) of people can’t imagine being able to function in their personal lives without the internet.
“We live in a hyper-connected world. By 2022, we are going to see more traffic crossing global networks than in the entire history of the Internet combined. This traffic comes from all of us, and increasingly, our machines. The survey shows the impact that the World Wide Web and the Internet has had on our lives, and what people expect for the future. To realize that potential, organisations – be it in healthcare, education, or any other industry – must be able to understand the power of connections and securely extract value from them. In addition, they need to manage the complexity thatz comes with the explosion of connecting people, places, ideas and things across a network,” said Wendy Mars, president, Cisco EMEAR.