When Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989, he probably didn’t predict just how much his ideas would change the way we communicate. With about 1.83 billion websites to date, the World Wide Web has been the cornerstone of the information age. Famously Berners-Lee said, “This is for everyone”, which was further immortalised in the opening ceremony of the UK Olympics in July, 2012.
The concept and inception
Often confused with the concept of the Internet from the 1960s, the World Wide Web was conceived to solve the need for an information-sharing system between scientists. He wanted this to be a gift to bring people, ideas and countries together. He wanted the web to stay free and open – a way for the scientific community to talk without borders, for the betterment of mankind.
Berners-Lee’s concept of the World Wide Web included terms like “hypertext project” and “web”. It portrayed how a “web” of “hypertext documents” can be viewed using a “browser” program. These documents, or pages, were to be identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs).
The World Wide Web goes live
In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the first Web Server, running on a NeXT computer at CERN. It contained the first public website that went live 30 years ago, in 1991. Only a handful of users had access to NeXT computers, which were mandatory for running the new web browser, so Berners-Lee started working on a browser that could run on any system. The result was the “line-mode browser”, only the second browser ever created, and the first to be portable across different operating systems.
The early days
The “line-mode” browser, while able to run on any machine, wasn’t particularly user-friendly. Developers from all over the world started working on their own versions of a web browser. The Mosaic browser was released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in 1993. On April 30th of that year, the World Wide Web software was put in the public domain by CERN, making it universally available. The web slowly began entering everyday life in 1994, which was dubbed “Year of the Web”. The first International World Wide Web Conference took place at CERN that year, and was attended by 380 users and developers, though there were still very few websites available at that time. Some notable players that would change the field forever were already making their first steps. Yahoo! was founded in 1994, adding a search engine capability later in 1995. That year was also the birth of web commerce, now known as e-commerce, with the founding of both eBay and Amazon.
The World Wide Web today
It’s incredible to think that anyone under the age of 32 has never known life without the World Wide Web. Today, in the Information Age, there are 7.83 billion people in the world, and 4.66 billion of these are active internet users. Almost half of the world is now online. Now more than ever before, we are heavily reliant on the World Wide Web as a lifeline to information. Among its many uses are communication, work, education, shopping, medical needs, media consumption, and more. Daily, the average user spends 6 hours and 43 minutes on the internet, creating a whopping 6.59 billion GB of traffic per second. Interestingly, not only humans are responsible for this traffic. In 2020, 40.8 percent of internet traffic was bot traffic. Most countries are also dependent on the World Wide Web to provide services and deliver information to their citizens. These are just some of the reasons why our focus should be on making the web even more accessible and secure than it already is. Whole business sectors now operate almost exclusively online, with millions of applications supporting their users’ activities.
Every rose has its thorn
The “Web”, as we know it, is not without its flaws. Along with the many benefits, came some unpleasant, unforeseen, and unwanted side effects – cybercrime, scams (like phishing), online fraud, the widespread dissemination of hate speech and disinformation, cyber-bullying, and more. A key focus area has become data privacy, with many countries and individual states now adopting extensive data privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA and others. In recent years, the Web Foundation – championed by Web Foundation Co-founder Rosemary Leith and Sir Tim Berners-Lee – has taken action by working with governments, companies, and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web. We like to think of ourselves as a part of this – fighting the good fight to make the internet a better, safer place by protecting data and all paths to it.
What’s next for the world wide web?
Recent worldwide developments, such as online ordering during the global COVID pandemic and the proliferation of remote working, have served as a catalyst to transform the WWW into an even busier space. In the coming years, though usage, we are hopeful we will see more incremental improvements. More people will be gaining access to the internet, as smart devices are increasing in availability and delivery infrastructure and connectivity constantly improves. Mobile devices are already leading the market, with about 58.1 percent of the operating system market share. A principal effect of the pandemic is the rapid development and expansion of digital surface space, as more business is being done online than ever before. According to Statista, an estimated 2.14 billion people will shop online in 2021. Retail e-commerce sales are projected to grow to 5.424 trillion US dollars in 2022.
As more people choose to shop online, attackers become more incentivized to target online retailers. Account Takeover and MageCart attacks should be a main concern, as they allow attackers to gain access to customers’ sensitive information like credit card numbers and personal data.
The World Wide Web is “for everyone”, and it’s our calling at Imperva to help to keep it that way by protecting the online experience, the future of and the ethics behind the WWW, and the data of our customers.
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