25 Years of the Internet: What Would We Do Without You?

Nowadays, with the Internet such a central and necessary part of our lives, it is hard to remember a time before it existed. We owe much to Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1989 while working in Switzerland, came up with what originally was just an idea for a way for scientists to share data. Of course, with over 25 years of the Internet now an historical fact, it has become a mature system and a way for just about everyone to share just about everything.

Considering our inability to now function without it, it is surprising that at the time the development of the Internet did not seem like a major advancement. Computers had already been around for a while, and were in the process of becoming more common. In fact, since the 1940s, scientists had been trying to figure out how to get computers to “talk” to each other. Then, starting in 1969, researchers began to develop the Internet itself. Unfortunately, in the late 1980s most people did not have a computer. Unless you had a job that made it useful, as in accounting, it probably would have just sat in a corner. This was especially true since there was no way for one computer to communicate with another.

That all changed in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed a way for the information to be managed and shared between colleagues at his company. Tim’s boss did not entirely understand, but he allowed Tim to continue working on the idea anyway.

The basic idea was actually not very complex. It had to do with connecting information to the Internet using three different technologies. The first was what we know as a URI or a URL, which is a specific identifier for a resource on the Internet. The second was the HTML or the HyperText Markup Language that created pages. The third technology was the HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP, which changes hypertext. Before Berners-Lee there were similar systems, but his process really allowed for servers to be built easily. He and his team created the first web page writer, the first server, and the very first web page. Two years later, they took it outside their company and gave it to the rest of the world for free.

At first, though, the web was not really anything exciting. There actually were some other ways of gaining access to the Internet, but there wasn’t much to do because most networks were closed. It was not owned by anyone and could be tailored to fit specific purposes. What contributed greatly to the explosion of users was the Mosaic browser. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, with 25 years of the Internet behind us, the Internet has expanded to what we know it as today, a system that affects almost every facet of everyday life.