Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, in 1998 said the web is an abstract (imaginary) space of information. If Sir Tim had lacked the imagination to conjure something as impressive the web, we would still be making space for volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica hardbacks on our bookshelves. Indeed, the reference tome might still have been in print.
However, Sir Tims March 12, 1989, proposal was initially rejected by his boss at the Swiss physics laboratory, CERN. It wasnt accepted until he proposed the three technologies HTML (HyperText Markup Language), URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) on which the web was built, and which remain in use.
In the beginning, the webpages were static, read-only text pages. Images would open in another browser window. This changed when the first user-friendly browser Mosaic was launched. It proved to be critical in the explosion of web. The pages looked better with inline images and it had most of the features that you see today in a browser. A URI bar, back and forward buttons, were first introduced by Mosaic. Netscape Navigator joined the party much later and turned the web on its head.
However, what made the World Wide Web even more attractive was that CERN waived its royalties in April 1993. This paved the way for innovation and made the web what it is today. Though companies profited from this open platform, history suggests that they had their own peaks and troughs.
The dot-com bubble burst in the late 90s saw a number of web startups go bust. But the ones that have survived Amazon, Google and eBay have today become industry behemoths.
The current landscape of the web is different and more dynamic. The advent of social media websites made Frigyes Karinthys six degrees of separation theory a virtual reality. According to the theory, we all are just six introductions away from any other person on the planet. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have all made this possible.
The web is still innovating at a furious pace, Yahoo Answers made way for Quora, Spotify replaced P2P services like Kazaa and Limewire, and Wikipedia saw the decline of leather bound reference books.
To continue this legacy, the web needs to remain free from any government oversight and corporate greed, now and in the foreseeable future.
To end on a lighter note, in a House of Lords debate on 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Lord Puttnam said, One hundred and eighty three billion emails are sent every day. Had we had the wit at the outset to place a 1p levy on each email - these are unaudited figures, I hasten to add - it would generate today, worldwide, 730bn [a year]. This tiny levy could totally change the landscape of aid worldwide. I realise it is rather late in day to suggest this, but it has another advantage: if there was such a levy, it might just allow people to pause momentarily before hitting that quite dreadful reply to all button.