Happy 25th Birthday, Web: What Would We Do Without You?

On 30 April, 1993, Young at Heart by the Bluebells was flying high in the charts, Virgin Radio broadcasted for the first time in Britain, and the Queen had just announced that Buckingham Palace would open its doors to the public.  However, it also marked another cultural phenomena that would create the biggest change that we’ve possibly seen in our lifetimes. On this day in 1993, CERN put the World Wide Web software in to the public domain.

You’re probably thinking, so what?

Simply put, the World Wide Web (www or Web to, well, all of us…) is a system that runs on the Internet. Invented decades ago by Tim Berners-Lee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN), the web was originally created so scientists around the world could share data more quickly. However, when it went public, it took on a life of its own, enabling the URLs and hyperlinks we use today to share documents and resources around the world.

While today, the Web and the Internet are virtually synonymous, this was not the case in 1993. Outside academia, few people knew what a server or a browser or even a network was, let alone an app. They definitely didn’t expect to hand over their pagers for smartphones that could allow them to download movies and pay for concert tickets in an instant.

Today, we can access millions of websites at the touch of a screen and we can order pizzas, book a hotel and schedule a meeting simultaneously all without speaking a word. We live in world today, where we can follow the waking moves of our friends and connect with virtually anyone around the globe, and we can read the news as it’s breaking through live pictures and videos from media outlets and citizen journalists.

The FleishmanHillard Fishburn Technology practice has been talking about this milestone for a while. We have been looking at its sweeping impact on the way we communicate, do business and generally interact with the world around us. We asked a few colleagues what it was like before this moment, and how it changed our worlds and industries. Here are some anecdotes:

“I Remember When… a colleague said to me ‘try this thing called Google, it’s really good’. Unfortunately, I was too busy faxing out press releases to give it a go.”

“I Remember When… you had to cut out articles from newspapers, stick them onto some cardboard and then send them to your client. Thank God for clipping services!”

“I Remember When… I used to spend hours agonising over what Bebo (RIP) flashbox I would have on my page.”

“I Remember When… I used Limewire to download all my music, giving my computer the equivalent of a persistent STD each time.”

“I Remember When… my only friend was a man called MySpace Tom who I’d never even met.”

I Remember When… Saturdays were all about a trip to the bank, booking holidays at a travel agent and fighting your way through hordes of shoppers on the high street.”

So let’s just take a moment to think about what if the events on 30 April, 1993 never took place; we would live in a very different world from the one of today. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the profound impact the Web has made on our society. It’s truly changed the world as we know it.

Happy birthday, WWW.

Reflections from the FHF Tech Team