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Let’s celebrate 30 years of possible

Let’s celebrate 30 years of possible

By Chintan Patel, Chief Technologist, Cisco UK & Ireland

The World Wide Web has led to a better, more connected world for billions of people. While we celebrate the creation of this game-changing innovation in March, more needs to be done to help everyone benefit from a hyper-connected society…

Seldom have three simple letters represented such a fundamental change for people. Those letters are WWW, otherwise known as the World Web Web, the gateway to the internet for billions of individuals.

The World Wide Web came into being in March 1989, and on that day the world changed for the better.

The Web has had an enormous impact on so many aspects of the way we live today, from people to culture to organisations, and everything in between.

With over 80% of the world’s internet traffic touching Cisco’s technology in some way, we’re proud to have played our part in this fantastic innovation.

To celebrate the birth of WWW, officially on 12 March, 1989, when scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee spelled out his vision for what would become the web, we marked the event with a collection of 30 world firsts that were made possible by this amazing technology.

Redefining what is possible

Advances in web technology have already transformed society, changing people’s lives for the better and led to the discovery of easier ways to do hard things.

Thinking back 30 years, who could have imagined that it would be possible to shop from a computer, or hold real time video conversations with someone on the other side of the world using a telephone?

Today everything from your smart speaker, to your watch, or the vending machine down the hall might be connected. And cities are now able to remotely monitor and report on air pollution, optimise refuse collection, or guide citizens to an empty parking spot.

And, where we’re going in the immediate future is pretty exciting too. From driverless cars to intelligent sensors, The Web is opening up almost unlimited possibilities.

So what are some of the WWW milestones that set today’s digital revolution in motion?

 “The ultimate killer app”

Essentially, ‘The Internet’ is the network of wires and protocols that information travels across. The World Wide Web is an application that runs on the Internet. In fact, it’s the single biggest application on the Internet. According to Scientific American.com: “…the Web turned out to be the killer app of all time”:

  • 1986 saw some of the first stirrings of the future. Cisco’s multiprotocol routers led the first wave of networking convergence that resulted in the Internet
  • In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. In March that year, Sir Tim laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”.
  • At CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the world’s first website and server went live in 1990. They ran on Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer which displays the message: “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER DOWN!”
  • In 1992 Cisco filed its first patent for IGRP (Interior Gateway Routing Protocol), a method for routing between computer networks
  • Who invented the first smartphone? Blackberry? Apple? In fact, the world’s first Internet connected phone was introduced in 1992, called the Simon Personal Communicator. Its creator was IBM
  • In 1994, one of the first known pizza purchases over the web took place: a pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese from Pizza Hut!
  • As concern for cyber and internet security increased, Netscape Communications invented the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Protocol in 1994.
  • Proving that the digital world has few boundaries, Cisco put an Internet router in space in 2010

Taking connectivity to the next level  

Those specific achievements are certainly worth celebrating. But there are also plenty of positive broad trends that have only been made possible thanks to the Internet. Amongst them:

Making truly global conversations possible

If the web has become a place of inclusion, the hashtag has become a marker of social allegiance; an opportunity for global communities to rally around the causes they believe in. From movements to support women’s rights and equality with the UN’s #HeForShe, or #BringBackOurGirls and the #MeToo campaign, to enabling people to be a part of something bigger by helping fund crucial research with the #ALSIceBucket which raised $115 million for crucial research, the web has enabled many voices to be heard.

Opening our minds to the possible

We now have more information at our fingertips than ever before. There are now immeasurable sources of information and ways to enrich our minds. Approximately 500 European institutions provide short courses and entire degree programmes at a distance, which when combined with advances in technology are creating opportunity in never before seen ways for the previously excluded - whether in remote Indigenous communities in Canada and Australia, or for women in Africa to study IT.

Making it possible for communities to come together and save lives

Connectivity is changing how communities in Africa are able to work together to help prevent the premature deaths of children. It is connecting disaster zones with critical communications to aid recovery, and to tackle challenges such as flooding, national infrastructure risks and public safety.

Opening up the possibilities of industry

The web has completely transformed the face of industry, empowering consumers with huge amounts of information to make smarter buying decisions and transforming how brands interact with us each and every day. Whether it’s retail, financial services, manufacturing or healthcare, the web has made accessing their services easier and simpler. It continues to create more opportunities, such as omni-channel retailing, allowing online and offline experiences to work together as one, so we can expect even more possibilities in the next 30 years.

Empowering the next generation of connected citizens

The World Wide Web has provided us with countless opportunities. But let’s not forget, there are risks and challenges associated with it too.

We strongly believe that, just as the web has benefitted society to date – by making online commerce possible, connecting communities and giving good causes a global voice – it will continue to be an overall force for the good over the coming years. It will allow us to expand opportunities, connect people and improve the quality of life around the world.

Of course, there will be bumps in the road along the way, just as there have been to-date. The web is a tool, and like all tools, must be looked after and used responsibly. Elements such as security, freedom of expression and equal access must be safeguarded.

Some of these things are the responsibility of governments and some fall to the organisations that develop the infrastructure on which the Web runs.

If there’s one thing that the last 30 years should show us, it’s that when we connect people and things, we can make almost anything possible. And now, as we look to the next 30 years of The Web we should focus on ensuring that the web is a safe, empowering and inclusive place that will enable entirely new possibilities for the next generation.