Human civilization has been around long enough to have established many different political, social and business structures. Technology has developed along with these systems and is still ever-changing. The wheel has been around since before records began, steam has given way to electricity and there seems to be no end to what may still be possible.
My Grandfather always said that Man has advanced more in the past 100 years than in the whole history of the world. Transport and communication have come a long way. Amongst all these mature technologies, the Internet is still very young. Just how old is the World Wide Web, and do we measure it in dog years?
As its father, Tim Berners-Lee changed the nappies and endured the sleepless nights during the web’s infancy. The formative years saw the establishment of standards that would later pave the way for the first websites. Steve Crocker’s “Request for Comments” series laid down a firm base for the education of the Internet and, as more people contributed, the web grew into a kindergartner. Computer geeks used their programming skills to hack together websites that resembled finger-paintings. Colours, fonts and animated giffs adorned websites that belched out badly formatted information. Hit counters informed you of the popularity of a website (although they were easily rigged) and feedback forms allowed you to submit messages to the webmaster.
The web grew up a bit and the years that followed showed an increase in interest from the world. Businesses started to see the potential in the youngster. With the right guidance, it could achieve great things. But, as with most adults, the world had its own problems to deal with and trusted that the web would make it’s own mistakes and so learn to be a better person/thing. Of course, prepubescent youths just want to play and are mostly oblivious to what is expected of them. Programmers made advancements in scripting languages, but these were no more than tree-houses and the web was still seen as an annoying brat that was neither here nor there.
Fashion-conscious, rebellious and self-assertive, the web entered it’s teenage years. Designers joined the party to add a much-needed visual edge to websites; programmers started creating more intricate systems and marketers better utilised the advertising tools at their disposal. Website owners began experimenting with different web-services and users become more trusting of websites. Internet payments become more popular and websites moved from being simply informational pages to actual business tools.
Today, the web is changing faster than ever before. Professionals colaborate on many levels to produce cutting-edge websites, products and services. Companies have integrated the web, either solely or as an extension, into their day-to-day business. People (young and old) use the Internet to manage many aspects of their lives and information multiplies on a daily basis. Even so, the web is still young and immature, but (like a young adult) it is ready to go out into the real world and realise its full potential. We have the skills and the resources we need to do amazing things and it is up to us, as Internet Godparents, to steer the web in the right direction. There is still so much to learn, with many more mistakes yet to be made. The future is bright and it will be a long time before the World Wide Web has fully matured, but I think it’s ready. The tools are available and the foundations have been laid. Personally, I am very excited to see what the web may become. So, to all websites out there, I say this: look sharp, think smart, focus on your goals and don’t lose sight of your dreams.