Created in 1989 by a scientist named Tim Berners-Lee, the world wide web as we have come to know it, was nothing but pages of lines with boring text. There was no way to find information. It was essentially created for nerds, academics and scientists. It had no use for ordinary people, until Mosaic was invented in 1993 by Netscape – the first graphical user Internet browser. The world was never going to be the same …
Battle of the browsers
Microsoft had been the leading software company at the time and saw Netscape as a threat because Next (the 2.0 of Mosaic that ran on top of Microsoft Windows) had invented this amazing technology that it was not part of.
This created a war between Netscape and Microsoft and resulted in the birth of Internet Explorer. By 1997 Microsoft had won the war by making Explorer free, bundled with all of its Windows versions, but by also telling companies that their licenses would expire if they had Next installed. This made them lose a court case in 1997 where the company lost over 30% of its shares over night. It was ordered to split the company in two, but this was later overruled. Bill Gates was ruthless and even once said he had more power than the president.
Battle of the search engines
The next big thing was the Internet search revolution. Fifteen years ago it wasn’t possible to go onto a platform and search for a specific thing. Instead there was an encyclopedia type index that you had to manually scroll through to find the relevant link you were looking for.
This problem was first solved when two electrical engineers created something that they could search the Internet to find articles on basketball games. They crunched data about previous games to change or trade players for upcoming matches. They would manually categorise information on the Internet and soon realised that this was a much bigger problem that they were solving. This lead to the creation of Yahoo.
Yahoo was the first company to make revenue on the Internet by using advertising on their platform. Yahoo soon faced a number of competitors. One that stood out from the rest was Excite. The difference between Yahoo and Excite was that Excite was able to crawl the web for something one would type in – kind of like how Google works today as opposed to Yahoo that was manually split into categories.
Both these companies started failing when they lost sight of what was important – they spat out random advertising instead of finding the best source of what someone was looking for. This left an opportunity for a new company to rise which is now known as Google.
Excite had an opportunity to buy Google for US$1-million at one point, but they turned down the offer.
The difference between Google and their competitors was that Google developed a way to show the most relevant links by link counting how many people pointed to a particular web page, or how many people had viewed a particular page, when searching for a specific term. This helped people find more relevant information faster. Google soon became the leading search engine.
E-commerce and the dot com bubble
Ebay and Amazon were two of the first online sites that made it easy to buy and sell products on the Internet. Ebay was mainly used to sell antiques while Amazon was used to sell books. Both these companies made it easy to sell things globally which set the footprint for the dot com boom. The dot com boom started when entrepreneurs saw how successful Amazon and Ebay were.
This lead to sites like pet.com and thousands of other E-commerce sites being listed on the stock exchange for a ridiculous amount of money – only to later fail and crash. These companies however later created the infrastructure we use today and allowed the rapid expansion of fiber networks. These networks would have eventually been built, but rather than taking 15 years, they took five years because there was a boom in getting information to as many people as possible.
After the bubble had popped only the companies that provided great customer service survived. These companies had to fight to stay on top of their game as many fierce competitors entered the scene.
The Internet 2.0 was the birth of people’s choice. User generated content, websites like Youtube and Facebook made this possible to anyone using the Internet.
These websites made it easy for people to interact and collaborate with each other such as uploading personal videos, liking photos, writing comments, sending messages.
Webpages were more dynamic and allowed people to instantly interact with people from all over the world.
Officially referred to the web 3.0 – there is however no such thing, but there is a lot of speculation about what it will be like. I have read many articles about this and these are my findings and views:
The rise in blockchain over the next few years will create many fantastic services in the financial, technological and social sectors of our current system. There is a lot of room for disruption as people’s expectations are increasingly growing with the rapid growth of technology.
Blockchain solves two very important issues: trust and speed. With a decentralised distributed ledger, people are able to come to a consensus without a centralised authority overpowering the masses. This means we are able to build things that people want and that people can trust.
I view blockchain as the Internet of 1995. People know it’s there and are using it (Bitcoin), but they don’t actually understand its actual use or how it works.
An example of the future of blockchain could work something like this: A centralised place where information is stored about each individual; their level of education, amount of money they currently have, ownership of assets (houses, cars etc.), their healthcare records and the list goes on. By putting this information on a blockchain it would make processes a lot faster and a lot more reliable. I’m not saying all this information would be publicly available, rather that one could make it available to institutions that needed it. For example letting a doctor view your medical records or when applying for a job, letting them see you academic history.
The True Story of the Internet: People
by Tony Mack