The World Wide Web Turns 25

Probably the most profound creation since the invention of the telephone and the industrial revolution, the world wide web is now 25 years old. It is important to note that there is a difference between what we usually simply refer to as the “Internet” and the world wide web.

The interconnection of networks that is the true Internet, is much older and, although it was in place and connecting a number of the early mainframe computers throughout the world, all containing some form of data. What didn’t exist until just 25 years ago was an easy way of sharing it, viewing it and publishing it so that anyone could interact and use that data.

That is when Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the “world wide web”. While working at the Cern European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland as software engineer in 1989 as a simple attempt to improve communications between the thousands of scientists involved in the project. Despite the fact that both the global system that connected computer networks was in place and computers were getting into the hands of new “end-users”, there still wasn’t a useful way to make it all “browse-able” by a wider audience.

Berners-Lee drawing on his computer programming expertise took the challenge and, even after his paper of the idea was poorly accepted, went on to create the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and built the very first browser he dubbed WorldWideWeb. By 1993 Cern allowed Sir Tim’s technology to be used by all and only a few years later millions of people across the globe were hooked up to and hook on the information that the “Internet” contained.

There are reasons to reflect a bit on the creation of the web itself but many folks worry about the basic foundation that the WWW runs on…the Internet. Development for the web has in 25 short years become the foundation for most of our economies. Billions of users access it from hundreds of different devices and soon millions. Some of the foundation we have become dependent on to deliver the web though are becoming strained.

Berners-Lee, and others who followed shortly to further develop the web, at first didn’t envision the amazing amount of permutations of their basic idea would spring and how many would use it for criminal enterprise. Their basic mission was to share broadly vast amounts of information but didn’t think that eventually those same systems could be used criminally or worst yet as weapons of war.

Increasingly we are hearing calls for adoption of several new approaches to the basic infrastructures that make up the Internet that will plug many of these holes and re-build the foundation more with the current state of the web in mind. Several continue to support, no matter how difficult and expensive for network operators, the abandonment of IPv4 in favor of the more secure IPv6 now reaching an acceptable level of maturity.

Until the foundation infrastructure is addressed by adopting new measures, it will be increasingly important for companies, who depend on the web for just about everything these days, to take whatever steps they can to better secure their websites until a longer term solution is implemented. Having a third party inspect and analyze your web and data warehouse security, taking into consideration all the the threats both existing and projected, can give you an objective look and set of recommendations that might save you from data theft or other downside that an aging infrastructure can create.

But despite the fact that the Internet could use some upkeep, the world wide web is going strong and continues to be one of the most important inventions in human history. All thanks to Sir Tim.