The World Wide Web, also known as the Web or WWW, is a system of web documents and other resources linked together through hyperlinks and URLs. It is one of the main services that use the Internet. However, it should not be confused with the Internet itself, which is the global physical infrastructure on which the web and other services are built.
Today, it would be almost impossible to conceive of a world without its existence, thanks to the way it has irreversibly changed human life in most cases. But when was it born and, above all, how? Well, since August 6 is the date of the creation of the first website in history, we thought of proposing a brief overview of how we got to what is used daily by billions of people today.
The history of the web: the beginnings
The web was conceived as a global network of information, allowing users to access amateur and professional content linked together through hyperlinks, or links.
This universal access to information is made possible not only by network protocols but also by the efficiency and ease of use of search engines and web browsers, which operate on a network architecture model called client-server.
Each resource on the web, such as a page, an image, or a video, has its unique address, called a URL, an acronym for “Uniform Resource Locator“. Users can access these resources using software called a web browser, such as Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.
The web has revolutionized communication and access to information, making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to search for information, share content, shop online, watch videos, and much more. It has become a fundamental part of modern society and everyday life. But when was it born?
The birth of the first website in history The roots of the web go back to studies conducted by Vannevar Bush, whose concepts were later published in his 1945 article, “As We May Think”. The term “hypertext” was first introduced in 1965 by Ted Nelson.
The official birth of the World Wide Web is celebrated on August 6, 1991, when English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee published the first website. However, the idea of the web was born two years earlier, in 1989, within CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Europe’s main physics laboratory. Berners-Lee was inspired by Italian colleagues who transmitted information via telephone line from one floor to another of the institute, displaying the information on video.
On March 20, 1989, Berners-Lee presented a document titled “Information Management: a Proposal” to his supervisor, proposing a system for sharing scientific documents in electronic format, regardless of the computing platform used. This project, developed together with Belgian colleague Robert Cailliau, aimed to improve communication and cooperation among CERN researchers. From this, the standards and protocols for the exchange of documents on computer networks were born, namely the HTML language and the HTTP network protocol.
In December 1990, the first versions of the server software were completed, and Berners-Lee also created the first browser. The first website, which described the WWW project, became visible only to CERN employees and collaborators on December 20, 1990. From August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee began to publicly announce the existence of the WWW project and the availability of the software. On August 23, 1991, the site received its first visit from a user outside the research center.
After two years of exclusive use by the scientific community, on April 30, 1993, CERN decided to make the WWW available to everyone by releasing the source code into the public domain. In the following years, the new technology met with rapid and widespread success, thanks to the possibility offered to anyone to create web pages, the efficiency of the service, and its ease of use. This led to exponential growth and spread of the Internet in the years 2000-2010, marking the beginning of the “web era”.
In Italy, the first website was put online by the “Research, Development and Higher Education Center in Sardinia” (CRS4) in the spring of 1993. The site, crs4.it, is still active today, albeit in a historical version.
The web today: numbers and data
As of April 2023, there are about 5.18 billion internet users worldwide, equivalent to 64.6% of the global population. This number is constantly growing, with an increase of 105 million users over the past 12 months.
According to the most recent statistics, there are currently about 1.97 billion websites in the world. However, only 18% of these websites are active, meaning that 82% are inactive. This indicates that there are about 200 million active websites at the moment. Keep in mind that this number fluctuates daily, as websites are launched or lost every day.
The most used technologies for creating all these sites are:
- Node.js (42.7%)
- React.js (40.6%)
- jQuery (21.89%)
- Express (19.28%)
- Angular (17.46%)
And for web browsing, the most frequented browsers are:
- Google Chrome (66.13%)
- Safari (11.87%)
- Microsoft Edge (11%)
- Others (11%)
Safari’s overtaking of Microsoft Edge is largely due to the use of smartphones. In fact, the mode of access to the web today, divided between mobile devices and desktops, is also interesting. Many surveys have been conducted to discover the exact numbers, among the most accurate is the one carried out by TechJury.net which indicates that globally, the use of mobile devices represents about 59.6% of the global share, compared to desktop use at 41%.
So, to date, web usage is fairly balanced between mobile devices and desktops, with a slight prevalence of mobile devices. However, the statistics can vary slightly depending on the country and the year considered.