From There to Here

The future of the Web is a fascinating topic. I’ve read about the coming “internet of things” and an “app internet” among other theories, which got me thinking about a bunch of things. Too many for a single post, so I decided to write it all down and then break it down into separate posts. Today, I’m going to look at how we got from there to here.

Quick History

For perspective, I decided to use the 15 year period from 1995 through 2010. Why? In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee developed the world wide web, which he released publicly and when coupled with graphical browsers one could mark the birth of the web as we know it to be in the early to mid 1990s.

From 1994 – 2004 approximately 75% of households had an internet connection, but anywhere from 60% – 95% of US households had connection speeds of 56K or less (see graphic from Nielsen here). The percent of the US population that used the internet in 2000 was 44% according to Internet World Stats. In 2004 this increased to 69%, in 2008 it was 73% and the latest data indicates 77%.

During the period of Web 1.0 (1994 – 2004), one could expect 30+ pound workstation with a 33mhz processor, 350mb hard drive and 4 mb of ram. This computer would be connected via phone modem to a Web comprised primarily of brochure sites wherein corporations and organizations had a one-to-many relationship. You visited their site and read. If you wanted to engage you filled out a contact form.

By Web 2.0 (2004 – 2008), there was a mix of workstations and laptops that were mostly connected to the Web via cable/DSL or wireless. These machines featured 3ghz processors with 40gb hard drives and 1 or more gb of ram. While brochure sites remained in place, a many-to-many conversation was underway first led by blogs and then the social networks.

Web 2.5 (2008 – current; why the half, this marks large-scale adoption of 2.0 model), joining workstations and laptops are phones and smart phones along with other devices that connect and interact with the web. In today’s environment, terabyte hard drives are not unusual and 25% of US internet users have connection speeds of 5mbps.

What Web 2.0 has produced is a massive internet with an enormous amount of content. According to Netcraft, there were 24 million active sites in 2004 compared to about 75 million at the end of 2008. From 2008 until November 2010, the number of sites has jumped to 100 million.

It is a pretty remarkable 15 year span. We went from 0 to 100 million active Web sites and nearly 80% of the population is now an internet user. Our connection speed went from 12-56kb to 5mb per second (more on this topic next post). The phone in our pocket has the ability to outperform the workstation used ten years ago (another upcoming post). And the Web itself changed from a one-to-many to many-to-many communication platform.

How did this happen? Improved processing power, memory, and connection speeds together produced the ability to interact and collaborate in near real time. This ability drove adoption and grew the web. Now we have to figure out how to manage and find all this stuff.

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