A Brief History of the Web college
topic: ECE350 (Human Communication for EEs)
The World Wide Web (WWW) has become a ubiquitous part of modern culture. Since its introduction several years ago as the first easy-to-use network interface, it has rapidly become one of the most popular ways to retrieve information while creating a new mode of publishing to the masses.
formats: Adobe PDF (42.6kB), PostScript (34.8kB), TeX (7.1kB) 1997-02-06 quality 5

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The World Wide Web (WWW) has become a ubiquitous part of modern
culture.  Since its introduction several years ago as the first
easy--to--use network interface, it has rapidly become one of the
most popular ways to retrieve information while creating a new
mode of publishing to the masses.

The Internet as we know it grew from roots in the defense department
and academia.  The users were for the most part university students, faculty, 
and other researchers.  These users were at ease creating their own tools
for their own needs.  

Historically, there have been different methods of publishing and
retrieving data from the network: email, Usenet, FTP, and gopher.
In the
beginning, dedicated connections were rare, and computers would have
to store collections of out--bound news and email until it was time to
establish a connection.  Most often, these connections were 
a form of telephone dial--up line, although some remote sites 
had mail and news distributed by someone physically carrying a magnetic
tape spool from one site to another.    This ``store and forward'' system
was called UUCP, which stands for Unix to Unix CoPy, and is still used 
some places.

As dedicated connections proliferated --- that is, as more and more sites
were connected to each other all the time --- a new protocol suite was adopted
for communication.  The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) had been
developing a network control system which would notice network failures
and adapt the routing of information around these failures.  This was
intended to allow a network to continue functioning when, for instance, one
of the computer sites was bombed during war.   This protocol suite
was called the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), and
is the current standard for internet communications.

Now that machines were connected all the time, a method for accessing
information real--time was required.   These interactive systems
are composed of a ``server'' program running on one machine, and a
``client'' program running on the other.  The client sends requests to
the server, and the server replies with the information requested.  This is
the general model for all internet communications.    All of these client
and server programs communicate using TCP/IP as their lowest layer.

The most basic method of accessing files over one of these networks is using the
File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which allows users to copy
files to and from different machines on the network.   The interface for
most FTP clients is similar to the DOS or UNIX command line:  the user must
type in specific commands to get files from a remote machine.  Most people
do not have the patience to learn and use this type of interface.

Later, a more browsable interface was developed at the University of
Minnesota, termed ``gopher,'' in which the user is presented a hierarchical
view of information available.  Instead of typing in cryptic commands, all
they had to do was type in the number of the selection on the screen that they
wanted to see.  A menu in gopher could have entries, or links, which took
the user to other gopher servers around the world.

In the early 90's, there was a need for a system which allowed
text and graphics to be mixed, in a friendly interface.  Thus the World
Wide Web (WWW) was created.   The WWW was the first place in which pictures
and text could be mixed and presented in a natural way.  The WWW also first
allowed users to simply click on text defined as a ``hyperlink'' to take
them to a different  place in ``webspace.''  The WWW is composed of hypertext,
which means that instead of having a linear order like a book, it has links which
connect different portions of the document.  Hypertext systems have been
around for years in the form of on--line help, but the advent of the WWW
was the first time it existed in a wide--area network environment.

People were quick to see the potential of the web, and proceeded to
put music, art, and technical databases online for public consumption.
Many people have a ``home page'' which contains some information about themselves, 
and invariably, a list of links to other pages like their own.  It is surprising
what seemingly useless information is published on the web --- someone has published
a real--time yo--yo status indicator, and another has a list of all the words
whose letters are in alphabetical order.

As popularity grew, it has become a necessity for companies to have
a presence on the web.  It is common for consumers to do much 
primary research on the WWW.   For instance, automotive consumer
report data is available on--line, making car research easier than ever.
A company's web site has great impact on their image to the modern consumer.  Well
designed pages allow a consumer to locate the data they require about the
product, while poorly--designed pages frustrate users and steer them away
to another company's product.
Almost overnight, a startup industry has been created to fill this need
for competent web--designers.  

Ever since this explosion of on--line data, the global internet, accessed
through the WWW, has become an indispensable tool for searching and
gathering data.  Using any one of the on--line search engines, such 
as http://altavista.digital.com/, a person is able to search 
all of webspace and find just about any information she could possibly want.

In the future, the global internet will be used for more and more collaboration
between companies.  It will be viable for remote offices to route their communication
through large public data backbones instead of leasing private data lines.  People will
be able to use voice and video in a transparent way over the network.

Before this integration happens there will be a massive re--engineering of 
the network structure including the hardware, software, and protocols that drive
the Internet.  The high--end computer systems designed only to handle the
routing of data over the internet are currently operating at their limits.  The protocols
of 20 years ago were not designed with requirements for secure, encrypted,
communication, nor were they designed with commerce or security in mind.   A new
generation of internet protocol has been standardized and will be deployed in the next
few years.  

In the few years since its creation, the WWW has revolutionized the way
people read and publish information.  The multimedia aspects of the web
offer a hint of what will be available in the next 20 years: 
high--quality video conferencing, network--transparent file--systems, and
large repositories of easily searchable online data.

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[Zak Smith] [zak@computer.org] [/~zak/documents/college/ece350-making-of-www/tex]
$Id: documents,v 1.5 2000/09/28 21:20:39 zak Exp zak $
documents was last modified Mon 07 Apr 2014 0:16:32
All text and photographs © copyright 1997-2009 Zak Smith, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.
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