The History of the World Wide Web: Web1 to Web3
Updated: Feb 21
Since the creation of the internet, this incredible piece of technology has continued to have a profound effect on the world. Today's world would be different without the internet and the Web. This blog looks at the origins of the internet and discusses the evolution of the World Wide Web.
Before going any further, it's essential to explain that the "internet" and the "Web" are, in fact, two separate elements. The internet is the physical hardware or infrastructure that helps to connect devices, while the Web is the software that makes that all seamlessly happen. Using these two specific terms interchangeably is common, but they are both uniquely different.
The Early Days of the Internet
The early days of the internet go back to the 1950s, at the beginning of the cold war between the former Soviet Union and the United States. The United States defense department then worked on an Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) research project.
By 1969, ARPA had become a stationary wired data network of highly technical communication systems, a national security risk because it was so centralized. Eventually, the ARPA network morphed into a more decentralized infrastructure, using many computers nationwide and having no specific central command center.
As time passed, ARPAnet researchers Robert Kahn, and Vint Cerf, found in 1974 that it was difficult for these computers to communicate with one another. These two programmers are responsible for developing the guidelines of "internetworking." With this invention, they helped create the TCP/IP, or Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, which would change the world forever.
Web1 Read-Only: 1991-2004
Fast forward fifteen years to 1989, an English programmer named Tim Berner Lee, researching for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), created a brand-new protocol capable of linking hypertext documents into an information system.
The following year, Tim wrote another three protocols that helped establish the Web as we know it today: HTML (HyperText Markup Language), URI (Uniform Resource Identifier), and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Shortly after that, Tim went to make the first-ever Web page browser ("WorldWideWeb.app"), which was the moment the World Wide Web was born. At the end of 1990, the first web page was live and visible to the world.
One year later, in 1991, the craze around the Web and the internet grew like wildfire, with people from across the globe joining in on this revolutionary technology. By 1994, Tim Berner Lee established the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a global community that works to develop open Web standards. Soon after, browsers such as Microsoft Explorer and Netscape Navigator would arrive on the scene and become mainstream.
Web2 Read-Write: 2004-Present
In 2004 Web2, the second generation, came about and is largely credited for helping to start the e-commerce boom we still see today. Major companies such as Amazon, Alibaba, and others have become household names when consumers want to make any purchase.
The early years of the 21st century also saw the .dotcom bubble. Many companies came and went during that time, as many people tried to cash in quickly on this growing frenzy. However, most businesses failed while only a handful rose to the top to become some of the most wealthy and powerful corporations we know today.
Below are three critical characteristics of Web2 and a short description of its impact on the world.
1. Social Media Empires
The first characteristic unique to Web2 was the appearance of social media platforms, which have grown into enormous empires with incredible wealth and power. The rise of social media was critical to Web2 because suddenly, people without knowing how to write code could create their Webpage, connecting them instantly to the online world.
The fact that everyone could become what we now call "content creators" has presented a tremendous opportunity for many people to showcase their talents, whether writing, singing, drawing, or anything else; social media was a game-changer. By 2006, platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and other outlets were making waves online and offline, fundamentally changing how people communicate.
2. The Product is the User
While e-commerce and social media platforms exploded in popularity, another unexpected change occurred, we, the users, became the product. The way this functioned was that each platform operated by making money off of ads. These ads were directed to their users, making it possible for ordinary people not to pay a dime to use these Websites.
Recently, this characteristic of Web2 has begun to show its ugly side. Major social media companies are said to keep and store user data, manipulating users into anything from buying goods to even driving political ideologies. Between the few giants in the social media sphere, it has become more evident that these companies aim to control users through censorship, surveillance, and other underhanded tactics.
3. Discussions on Identity and Ownership
Over time, we have seen many data breaches across most platforms, showcasing that Web2 has been unsuccessful in protecting user privacy. These breaches have caused governments to develop regulations such as GDPR in the EU, which zeros in on protecting user rights and information. With this control over user data, many are beginning to discuss the ideas of identity and ownership.
Web3 Read-Write-Own: Coming Soon
While Web2 users can read-write, which brought about the content creator content phenomenon, Web3 adds a third element. The "own" aspect changes everything for Web users; it takes power away from big tech corporations and gives it back to the people. This change is all thanks to blockchain technology which allows developers to build apps and Websites that are more secure, private, and censorship-resistant.
Web3 is Crypto and So Much More
Web3 needs to be clarified for cryptocurrencies and NFTs. The truth is that Web3 is so much more. The truth is that Web3 is challenging to define; as a relatively new concept, Web3 is growing, changing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In the future, NFTs and crypto will play a crucial role in Web3 and its mass adoption, but Web3's vastness shouldn't be understated.
Some Final Thoughts
As Web3 inches closer to mass adoption (we're still a long way off at the moment), it's important to point out that we're in an experimental stage, full of change and exciting new ideas. As time passes, we'll see more companies join in on this revolution, which will help push more change and innovation. The truth is that Web3 is more an ideal or vision than technology; it's about blending the two to create a more equitable world for everyone.
Stay in the Know with EH-3
Jump in and dive into Web3; each month covers two new concepts within this exciting new space. For more information, go to the EH-3 Website now!