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The World Wide Web or often better termed  Wild Wild Web, a little history of the mystery


A little history of the mystery of the World Wide Web

The Web as we know it today is our lifeline. Like our cell phone, it’s hard to imagine life without it. But the Web as we know it today is just the tip of the information iceberg, and to some extent we’re on the Titanic. I know that sounds dramatic, but as I look forward ten years, I see a personalization crisis—to some extent a privacy crisis—unless we do something about it. And I’m not alone. Some of our best minds are hard at work on the issue. This is where you can monitor their progress in “user-speak,” not “techno-speak.” This blog is about the personal Web—the personal cloud, identity management, and regaining control of our personal profiles and information so the Web serves us more effectively.

To do that, we’ll need to explore the iceberg. Today’s Web has come a long way since it first gained traction in the early 90’s.  Though we all know that the Internet was developed by various defense departments in several countries, early adopters of the World Wide Web itself were primarily university-based scientific departments or physics laboratories such as CERNFermilab and SLAC.

The WorldWideWeb (WWW) project allowed transmission of different kinds of data, not just text, and allowed hyperlinks to be made to any information anywhere. The WWW project at CERN was started to allow physicists to share data, news, and documentation.

The Web is now an always-on, anybody-can-play, all encompassing resource pool. It’s gone from a trickle of information to a fire hose. I remember hearing an analogy from a professor at the University of Utah first in 1995 who said, “The Internet and World Wide Web will be the largest library ever in existence, where you can find anything you may want. Someone’s taken all the books off the shelves, piled them up in the middle of the room, and shut the lights off. You have no idea who’s in the library with you, or what they’re looking for.”  That’s pretty much true today, too.   I’d add that it’s not just that you don’t know who’s in the library with you, but the library doesn’t care who you are. The pile of books in front of you should be about what you’re actually interested in. And, importantly, information you’re interested in now, not what you cared about last week.

Early 1990 to 1994 Websites intermingled links for both the HTTP web protocol and the then-popular Gopher protocol, which provided access to content through hypertext menus presented as a file system rather than through HTML files. Early Web users would navigate either by bookmarking popular directory pages, such as Berners-Lee’s first site at http://info.cern.ch/, or by consulting updated lists such as the NCSA “What’s New” page. Some sites were also indexed by WAIS, enabling users to submit full-text searches similar to the capability later provided by search engines.

There was still no graphical browser available for computers besides the NeXT. Who founded NeXT? None other then Steve Jobs who had been forced out of Apple Computer in 1985. After puttering around for several months, Jobs decided that he would return to the computer industry. He invested $7 million to create a brand new company, NeXT Inc, which was light years ahead of its competition in the scientific marketplace in terms of its understanding of and infrastructure for human interface. To me, this is more evidence and proof behind the theory of the “Steve Factor.” Aside from the several excellent books written about Steve, interested readers might want to check out The Outliers, in which Malcolm Gladwell has made excellent observations on the topic of being different or going beyond one’s peers.

Although  HTTP protocol and human interface innovations were helping to define the Web, there was still something missing. Although HTTP literally means, “hypertext transfer protocol,” hypertext was still in its infancy. It had a growth spurt in April 1992 with the release of Erwise, an application developed at Helsinki University of Technology, and in May by ViolaWWW, created by Pei-Yuan Wei, which included advanced features such as embedded graphics, scripting, and animation. ViolaWWW was originally an application for HyperCard from Apple Computer. Both programs ran on the X Window System for Unix.

The turning point for the World Wide Web was the introduction of the Mosaic web browser in 1993, a graphical browser developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), led by Marc Andreessen. The origins of Mosaic had begun in 1992. In November 1992, the NCSA at the University of Illinois (UIUC) established a website. In December 1992, Andreessen and Eric Bina, students attending UIUC and working at the NCSA, began work on Mosaic. They released an X Window browser in February 1993. It gained popularity due to its strong support of integrated multimedia, and the authors’ rapid response to user bug reports and recommendations for new features.

The first Microsoft Windows browser was Cello, written by Thomas R. Bruce for the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School to provide legal information, since more lawyers had more access to Windows than to Unix. Cello was released in June 1993.

After graduation from UIUC, Marc Andreessen and James H. Clark, former CEO of Silicon Graphics, met and formed Mosaic Communications Corporation to develop the Mosaic browser commercially. The company changed its name to Netscape in April 1994, and the browser was developed further as Netscape Navigator.  Today we recognize that code and the efforts behind it as FireFox from Mozilla. It was at this intersection that we saw the launching of the commercial Web, one driven by corporations and advertising revenue. Another way to look at it is that the current Web is on the supply side of the user relationship. What’s missing is the demand side.

All the milestones, efforts, and breakthroughs of the past couple of decades—pretty much everything we take for granted today—is the supply side Web. A bright spot on the demand side of the ledger is the Live Web. While today’s Web is the place where everything exists, the Live Web is where things happen. Dr. Windley calls it the Event Web. He sees it as a place where we can realize meshed collaboration on an ad hoc basis. Along with the Live Web, we need a more personal Web. While today’s personalization algorithms are all based on corporations serving up what we needed yesterday and how we needed it, what’s needed is an infrastructure that helps us define what we want in the moment, and defines trajectories of what we may need in the future. We need more control over what we get from the Web.

This blog is dedicated to an open discussion and comments on how this new Internet of Events―one that is deeply rooted in services―differs from Cloud Computing in general. What is becoming clear is that we are on our way to transforming the undifferentiated Cloud into Personal Clouds and Personal Cloud Services. This blog will speak to Personal Services of all kinds and types. What do you see as the services you’ll need to make the Cloud more useful to you? Perhaps there are efforts underway already to provide those services, and I’ll be able to fill you in on progress. So I need your input. Please ask questions, make observations, and join in our conversations. Thank you!

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