The World Wide Web Celebrates Its 25th Birthday

world wide web birthday

It’s hard to believe, but the Web becomes 25 years old on March 12, 2014. It seems like only yesterday that we were on Yahoo Geocities making our first flashing business website with Comic Sans font.  We’ve come a long way since then.

A lot of people refer to the “Internet” and the “World Wide Web” as one and the same.  They are not the same beast, however. They are two different entities. So in order to ensure that we are wishing the right part a happy birthday, let’s take a quick look at what the Internet and World Wide Web exactly are.

The Internet is a huge network of networks. It connects millions of computers globally, forming a network in which any computer can talk with any other computer – as long as they are both connected to the Internet.  Traffic flows over it. It truly is the like a tech superhighway, as it’s been called.

Now the World Wide Web is simply a vehicle for sending and receiving information over the Internet. Today, most of us use the “http” protocol in browsers such as Firefox or Chrome to access webpages on the World Wide Web.  Think of the World Wide Web as places where information resides and can be found.

According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 87% of American adults are now on the Internet and adult ownership of mobile phones has risen from 53% to 90% in the past 14 years. Also, 90% of Internet users say the Internet has been a good thing for them personally and only 6% say it has been bad.

Overall, the report shows that in the 25 years of the World Wide Web, usage has exploded. And the Web has got its hooks into people. According to the report, 53% of users said it would be very difficult to give up the Web.

How and Why the World Wide Web Got Started

Before 1989, using the Internet was technologically challenging. It was mostly used by a small number of geeks in academia and government.  While there are many important milestones in the history of the Internet and the World Wide Web, one date stands out.  That’s March 1989, when Tim Berners Lee wrote a proposal at CERN in Switzerland, for “a large hypertext database with typed links” that came to be called the World Wide Web.

Before then, you still had to be a tech geek to understand the commands to the various bulletin boards online.  The birth of the Web eventually opened the way for regular citizens to start using the Internet.

Another important milestone was the development of the Mosaic browser in 1993. Mosaic displayed text and graphics in a more user-friendly way than raw software commands. Mosaic was developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led by Marc Andreessen, now a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

Donna Hoffman, co-director of the Center for the Connected Consumer at George Washington University, told NBC News:

“If you weren’t technologically sophisticated, you couldn’t really use [the Internet], because you had to use all of these arcane tools and commands.”

The Web and Mosaic, she said:

“. . .opened up the world of the Internet to anybody who had a browser and a mouse.”

Today, the World Wide Web can be used by everyday citizens who don’t need a lot of technical knowledge.  For that we say, “Happy Birthday!”

Balloon Photo via Shutterstock

5 Comments ▼

Mark O'Neill - Staff Writer


Mark O'Neill Mark O'Neill is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering software and social media. He is a freelance journalist who has been writing for over 25 years, and has successfully made the leap from newspapers and radio onto the Internet. From 2007-2013, he was the Managing Editor of MakeUseOf.com.

5 Reactions

  1. It’s quite fascinating to know that the Internet is only 25 years old. It’s fascinating because I’m 28. That means I am living most of my life with the Internet but I am quite ‘lucky’ enough that I am able to feel how life is without the Internet.

    • Please reread the article. The World Wide Web is 25 years old, not the internet. I remember using the internet in the 70′s in my college computer class. Of course, I never thought it would amount to much, so I didn’t think it would be a worth studying in depth.

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