Home > The Internet > Where did it all start?

Where did it all start?

The Internet / Web / 1.0 / 2.0 / 3.0

The Internet
If you’re a Christian, then that answer would be Genesis 1:1. But since religion is a topic for another day, the Internet started being put together between the 60’s and 70’s. That for most of us is a long time ago, rightly so, I wasn’t even born as yet, my parents where I think just starting life out somewhere there.

It’s really very easy to understand, but I’ll try to simplify it further anyway, ok in the 60’s brilliant people everywhere were using these huge things called computers, great! The only problem is that they could not interact with each other or be able to share what they were doing.

So they came up with the idea of networking their computers, it was a very real – physical process. They made a network cable, created a mainframe computer and linked everything up. Superb you say, well it was! They could now communicate with each other albeit on a very slow and minor scale when compared to now but at the time it was wonderful.

Well as is human nature, we hungered for more. So imagine if you may that someone decided to move away and obviously had to leave this lovely network behind. He now finds himself in a new place and what does he do?

He starts work and tells them about the wonderful thing called the network that he used at his previous company, great they say, so now he goes ahead and builds up a new network and then goes home and thinks to himself it would be so great if only I could network with my colleges back home – the obvious thought comes into his head (seeing that his mind has not been freed) “A really long network cable”. That was never going to happen. Imagine a network cable running from Johannesburg to Cape Town along the road, over the mountain, pass Durban… crazy!

M.I.T. is famous all over the world, you hear the name mentioned in movies and for good reason, there were a few people – institutions (read on to find out who else was involved) that collaborated on this effort, M.I.T. and the other institutions came up with packet-switched networking solutions which lead to inter-networking. That’s right they figured it out, how to connect this guy to his colleges back home.

Inter-networking was the joining together of the networks, so our man that moved away and started his own network could now interact with his own colleges. This is also really where this word protocol started kicking off.

Again being human beings, we were not satisfied and this lead to us wanting to take over the world, ok not really, I lie! This did lead to people wanting to create a global inter-networking. Boooooom, “The Internet” is born.

The evolution would not stop there, people continued to explore and learn and test and fail and test and fail and test and fail and then call a friend, get some advice and bang you have email, which is near instant communication, soon after came the World Wide Web. It has been growing ever since. At present we have instant messaging, object orientated programming (This is the fun kind of programming the one where you see things move on your screen) we have the multimedia sphere take off with audio and video, video in particular and because video is like it’s own technology, it started and has evolved and is still evolving. What was once thought to be just for a television screen is now on a PC screen in your home or a mobile device in your hand.

Mind you, everything I said is all good to know, but just so that the record is straight, connecting or joining of these multiple networks took place inside the United States Department of Defence. That’s correct; this was all happening inside of probably the worlds safest place, hence you see where the word protocol comes from…

In 1979, Compuserve offered the first electronic mail service to the public a year later they became the first company to offer real time chat to the public. Soon after would follow the many others would now dive into the universe of the internet.

There are many names you hear in industry at the moment and you often wonder, what has made them so reputable? I having worked in such varied industries everything from the Motor Industry to FMCG, IT and now Broadcasting have heard a lot of companies mentioned take Cisco Systems for instant in whatever industry you in, you hear that name, but what role do they play in the bigger picture, well Cisco in 1987 were selling routers, they sold them to the right people and this saw the internet grow across Europe. Of course living out of South Africa and with our proud history of being the Dark Continent, as you can imagine – the internet had not found us just yet.

I must admit though, that this was actually a very sad point of history – as the world would have it, there are many really intelligent people that come out from the strangest places. I recall reading a report recently that said that India by 2050 would produce 25% more honour students than America. That’s an interesting stat, how true it is, well only time will tell, but personal experience teaches me that excellence and brilliance can come from places and people where you least expect it.

Internet on Mobile Phones
Time would continue on and see the introduction of the Mobile Phone as it was called in the western world and Cellular Phones or Cellphones as known in South Africa, Well while the world was advancing in technogy and South Africa was reaching democracy. We see the human nature in us again take flight, this time it was not to connect computers or networks, this time it was to make this internet available in a new way. 1996 (two years into South African Democracy) Nokia brings onto the market the Nokia 9000 Communicator.

If you’re a Mobile Phone fanatic like me, then you will know that any good quality Nokia Mobile Phone does not come cheap. So because of this the mobile internet world didn’t really take off right at that point. Blackberry brought the first real mobile internet applications by having an email service.

After looking at the Internet it became clear that it could not just be on a mobile phone, so a cleaner coding system was invented – this is another term you should be familar with – “WAP” Wireless application protocol. The scale that exists as of 2008 is 10 mobile phone internet users to every one 1 computer internet user. That is an good figure and should make companies re-look Mobi as a viable alternative revenue stream.

Interesting fact: In 1971 Ray Tomlinson created the standard naming convention we use for email, the @ sign that divided the user name from the hosting company.

The World Wide Web
So With all this technology and information moving around and getting stored, pretty soon we would reach a point where the internet would look like my desk – a complete mess. So people started trying to build systems that allowed the information to be filed in a way, but it proved more difficult to do than they thought.

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invented a system that allowed information to be organized; in 2004 he received the Millennium Technology Prize for his work in developing the World Wide Web. There were many browsers developed for what Tim had created, starting from text based browsers then in to Graphical User Interfaces or GUI, Netscape Navigator being the first, but in due season would see Internet Explorer make it’s entrance into WWW

Search Engines
The initial systems to organise the internet were search engines, at the time they could only search titles but they have been around for a long time as well. Yahoo was founded in 1995 and seemingly lead the industry up until about 2001 at which time Google (founded in 1998) took over as leader. We’ve all used a search engine; we know how they work so to speak we by nature look at the first few entries a search engine provides us knowing that those entries would be most relevant. By 2006 Page rankings was the number issues in the World Wide Web. It was so great that the need for SEO – Search Engine Optimization was born, and with it a new career area for people.

JupeterResearch predicts that by 2011, more than 22% of the worlds population will have online access, these are people who access the internet regularly and are not people who access the internet from their Mobile Phones. As expected the greatest contributors to this boost is China and India.

There are few in fact almost no early written records about the development of the Internet except for the records of the big companies who where involved. The other workers or developers – those who worked for free or open source, worked and shared verbally and trusted in their partnerships.

Web 1.0
Whenever you see a figure attached to something related to the internet it is usually talking about the state or condition of that internet subject at a given time. So 1 being a starting number would indicate to you the state of the web when it started.

Because it was the start it’s actually easier to just compare Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to understand where it came from.

1. Web 1.0 was about personal websites whereas Web 2.0 is about Blogs and blogging.
2. Web 1.0 was about publishing whereas Web 2.0 is about participating
3. Web 1.0 was about getting content up because someone paid you alot of money to do so whereas Web 2.0 is about creating an ongoing, interactive process.

*Comparisons taken from Terry Few’s 3rd edition of New Media.

There are other contributing factors to the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 such as Broadband, new browsers, Ajax, Flash, Wigets and such websites as Flickr and YouTube, which in a nutchell are not really websites but rather are applications if you understand what I mean. Applications because they give you the same kind of functionality as you would have with a windows desktop application or MAC if you’re a MAC user.

At the Technet Summit in November 2006, Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix, stated a simple formula for defining the phases of the Web:
“ Web 1.0 was dial-up, 50K average bandwidth, Web 2.0 is an average 1 megabit of bandwidth and Web 3.0 will be 10 megabits of bandwidth all the time, which will be the full video Web, and that will feel like Web 3.0. ”.

Web 2.0
As the naming conventions states this is then the second phase or more commonly known as the second generation of the web. To be really very honest, this was the start of “the good browsing experience” as I call it – quick someone write that down and then quote me as saying when you use it ok! – Communities, social networking, video on demand, blogs this is Web 2.0 in full power.

Don’t be confused in any way, Web 2.0 does not refer to any technical infrastructure upgrades, mind you the upgrades are always happening. Web 2.0 is more about the software and applications being built. You could say peoples minds were starting to be freed. So with a freed mind and no boundaries what was previously thought impossible is now a reality. Visions and scenes from movies that we watched were now just a click away. HD or High Definition gave users the website experience that you would receive will playing Gran Turismo on a PS3.

Web 2.0 is further broken down into these categories to better understand were we are.

a. These applications work just as well offline as they do online – Google Maps
b. These applications work offline but have more features online – iTunes
c. These applications can work offline but have more features online – Flickr
d. These applications will work only online – Wikipedia

Web 2.0 offers users a new experience – Entering a world with rich content, but friendly enough that a 70 year old can still understand and access what you have to offer. The most commonly known applications that allow you to create this wonderful interactivity are Ajax and Flex. If you have no idea what that is, basically they are frameworks that means the skeleton of the website is built in these applications and because they are built in these applications, you get those really cool websites.

Other aspects of Web 2.0 include dynamic content, where Web 1.0 forced web developers to build websites in a very labour intensive way, Web 2.0 allows developers to build websites in an environment that allows for creativity and ingenuity. Here’s what I mean. Web 1.0 and you’re the designer on a project, the client comes to you and says “Hey, build me a website, it must have 8 pages each containing different information” so you crack open whatever html editing program you use, say Dreamweaver and you getting busy, and you literally make 8 pages.

Web 2.0 and you’re the designer with the same project, except this time, you make 1 page and have the 8 pages worth of information written to a database, so all you do is get the content dynamically loaded into your one page.

If you have to look for characteristics of a Web 2.0 site you would most likely see a website that has a SEARCH function, this would allow a user to get to specific content quickly. You would also see AUTHORING, now don’t let the word scare you, it’s just a fancy way of saying, that people are allowed to edit or correct and add to your content, Wikipedia is an example. Information on Wikipedia can be edited so if you know the content has a mistake or error you may fix it. It goes further to areas like blogging, where people can comment and make known their thoughts, this is what Authoring is. As more and more websites use this functionality, you will start to see a huge increase in popularity for this kind of interactivity. You must always remember that people like to make known what they are thinking or feeling even when it’s about your content. TAGGING or TAG CLOUDS is another indication of a Web 2.0 site, tag clouds are created from what is most commonly searched for in your website and beats having to categorize your search functions. This is an important aspect because once again it relates to how quickly a user can locate what they are looking for. EXTENSIONS is Web 2.0 being smart, A website will take an book for example, then document whatever else Bob has seen while seeing that book and when Mary comes and looks at the book it will offer suggestions based on what other users saw after they saw the book in this case what Bob saw after he looked at the book would be recommended to Mary. A working example of this is Kalahari.net or Amazon.com, where they will tell you while you are looking at a particular book, that “Other users who looked at this book also looked at …blah blah blah…” Oh and one other thing you may see bouncing around is this word “RSS” – it means Really Simple Syndication, when you change something on your website, your RSS feed gets updated to inform your users that something has changed.

Web 3.0
This next version of the web scares me a little I must confess, while I love new technology and learning, the one-too-many sci-fi movies I have watched have left me with very many bad thoughts about what Web 3.0 could transform into.

Web 3.0 is the advancement from making websites just for people, what do I mean? Well you could probably buy a muffin online or do your internet banking, Web 3.0 says instead of building a website so that only a human can interact, rather build websites where computers and humans understand, so that the computer can learn the tedious tasks you do and do it for you. See iRobot anywhere there?

The world wide web is at the most part programmed or coded or written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) in this HTML there are such things as meta tags, which are these pieces of code hidden to a normal user but a computer can understand the messages it contains. Meta tags tell the computer what your website is about, what the title is along with the creator and so forth. This however is a very disjointed method, because it contains static information, so when you initially launch your website it’s great but with time and as your website changes, you forget about these little things.

A simple illustration, say you start a business making cool drink, you make coke and it’s doing well and you start a website with your meta tags all saying coke, 10 years later you are now called ABI and you don’t just make coke, there’s fanta, sprite, crème soda and so forth. Sadly you’ve forgotten about your tagging and so your Meta tags just say coke. **Note this is a fictitious example ok – ABI don’t sue me!

Web 3.0 is based on creating your HTML with its intention as the focus, here’s what I mean. Traditionally if you wanted to make a word italic, you would find the word surrounded by these tags: italics which was fine, it served it’s purpose, but with Web 3.0 when you to make something italic, the question you ask yourself is, WHY DO I WANT TO MAKE IT ITALIC? The answer is because I want to emphasise that word. So instead of using the tag you would use the tag, this would then be sufficient for both the user and the computer to understand what you are doing.

As you may imagine, that would be like learning a whole new language and in some ways it is, although you would be surprised to know that these simple Web 3.0 tags have been around since Web 1.0, I recall while studying computer science, I came across the very same tag we are speaking about, and the computer science teacher said to the class, when you write HTML, use the tag instead of the tag, so me being me, I had to know why. The poor computer science had absolutely no idea why, so his response to me was “that’s what the textbook said” he would be happy to know years later that there was actually a pretty good purpose in what he had told us.

This language that is being created and used in Web 3.0 has been called microformats, it is the unofficial name as this is a work-in-progress.

More and more you are seeing the advancement in Web 3.0 and sometimes we never even know that it’s happening. Have you heard of XML? The likelihood is that you have either when you saw an online game that was XML driven or information on a website that is been fed by XML or a flash file that reads XML data, it’s all around and evolving everyday.

The computer-readable coding gives content people the ability to add meaning to their content. This new meaning is then in turn going to empower a computer to run processes similar to those we run in our brain while viewing content.

What to look out for in the future:
RDF – Resource Descriptive Framework
OWL – Web Ontology Language
XML – Extensible Markup Language

Here’s an example of how you would see RDF in use.

girl – This would be the traditional HTML

rdf:about=http://www.wikipedia.org/girl>girl – Web 3.0 HTML

Further to this if you have heard of this program called Adobe Flash, you would most likely be aware of what this program allows you to do. Well Adobe Flash and its language called Actionscript which is very similar to Javascript, both of these languages are Object-Based Languages or Object Orientated Languages. This is in simple terms when the code you create is for a specific object as opposed to a language like HTML which is not specific.

To better elaborate, in Adobe Flash, say you create a ball, you would then using the programming language tell the ball to move and really it is that logic that makes the ball (object) move. You cannot do that in HTML.

Why am I telling you this, for good reason Web 3.0 is moving in this direction, which means if Actionscript and Javascript is not your cup of tea, then you have serious problems.

What can we see already on the web, while Web 3.0 is really just starting, the functionality can be seen by being able to do such things as extract information directly out of Wikipedia using DBpedia. There are also Blogs, Vlogs, Sharing and GUI image galleries. SMILE is a MIT project underway to link all these wonderful new technologies together. Try downloading a plugin for Forefox called Piggy Bank, it takes web content and makes it into RDF and saves it to your computer to be able to access it at a later stage either independently or by an application a good example would be Google Maps. Piggy Bank was created by the SMILE project.

So NOW what?
Web overall is developing and will continue to develop to offer better, smarter ways of working and this is secret to being successful online. Work smarter, if your mind only allows you to work in a Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 way then the possibilities for you are few or nonexistent. Being able to understand that the only boundary you have is yourself will hopeful help you get rid of that boundary.

How are successful companies doing it? How are they going online? How are they using the internet to make money? Well ask my favourite site: Google – and the answer you would get is: Stay young because you need a child’s imagination to go beyond, to break the boundaries to see Santa Claus as real! Get smart, because you have to work intelligently to be able to offer a customer something that no one else can! Most importantly – Learn, because you can if you try learning something new everyday. You may not be able to use it immediately but sometime in your future you will be glad you learnt it.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: