The Evolution of Word Wide Web – WWW


World Wide Web (WWW) is the system of interlinked hypertext documents containing text, images, audio, videos, animation and more. User can view and navigate through these documents using hyperlinks or navigation elements which have references to another document or to the section of the same document. In a broader sense “The World Wide Web is the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge.”

History of World Wide Web

WWW was first proposed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau while working at the CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research. Both of them came out with their individual proposal for Hypertext systems and later on they united and offered joint proposal. The term “Word Wide Web” was first introduced in that joint proposal. The history of every invention has lot of pre-history. Similarly the World Wide Web has also lot of pre-historical gradual development of hypertext system and internet protocols which made the WWW possible. The gradual development started in the early 1945, with the development of Memex, a device based on microfilms for storing huge amount of documents and facilitating organizing those documents. Later in 1968 “Hypertext” was introduced, which made linking and organization of documents fairly easy. In 1972 DARPA (Defense Advance Research Project Agency), started project that connect all research centers to facilitate data exchange which later adopted for military information exchange. In 1979 SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) was invented to enable sharing of documents for large government project by separating content from the presentation and thereby enabling same document to be rendered in different ways. In 1989 Tim Berners-lee came out with Networked Hypertext system form CERN Laboratory. In 1990, joint proposal for hyper text system was presented and the term “World Wide Web” first introduced. In 1992 first portable browser was released by CERN, and that had picked up industry interest in internet development. Today web is so much popularized and has grown to be so invaded in to our lives; it becomes almost impossible to imagine the World without web.

Web Evolution – What and How?

Each technology has certain distinguished characteristics and features. Similarly web has certain features such as data, services, mess-up, APIs, social platform and more. These features are continuously and progressively evolving in distinct stages with qualitative improvements over the existing. Web evolution is categorized and hyped with some fancy marketing terms like “Web 1.0”, “Web 2.0”, “Social Web”, “Web 3.0”, “Pragmatic Semantic Web”, “Pragmatic Web” and many more.

Yihong Ding, PHD candidate at Brigham Young University, in his article on “Evolution of Web” explained the development of Web by analogically comparing it with the human growth. Yihong Ding stated “The relationship between web pages and their webmasters is similar to the relationship between children and their parents. As well as parents raise their children, webmasters maintain and update their web pages. Human children have their normal stages of development, such as the newborn stage, pre-school stage, elementary-school stage, teenage stage, and so on. Analogically, web has its generations, such as Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and so on.”

Along with technological advancement web design also changed over the period of time. Initial design was simple hypertext read only system which allowed users to read the information. User was just a viewer of what is presented on the web. Gradually images and tables added with evolution of HTML and web browsers, which allowed making better design. Development of photo-editing tools, web authoring tools and content management tools enabled designer to begin creating visually appealing website design layouts. In the next phase of development, web design changed with the change in usability and the focus is diverted on the users rather than the content of the website. User interaction and social touch is applied to the web design. Now user is not just a viewer. User can drive the web with feedback, information sharing, rating and personalization. Gradually we got the mature blend of function, form, content and interaction, called Read/Write Web. Continuing this evolution, meaning is added to the information presented on the web so that online virtual representatives of human can able to read and interprets the presented information. This kind of web where user agent imitating human behavior, can read and understand the information using artificial intelligence is called semantic web.

Web 1. 0 (Read Only Web)

World Wide Web is evolved in stages. First stage was the basic “Read Only” hypertext system also termed as Web 1.0 since the hype of Web 2.0. In fact in the original proposed web model, Tim Berners-Lee envisioned web as the Read/Write Model with HTTP PUT and HTTP DELETE method. These methods were almost never used just because of security reasons.

Some of the Characteristics of Web 1.0

1. In Web 1.0 web master is constantly engaged with responsibility of managing the content and keeps user updating. Majority of hyperlinks to the contents are manually assigned by the web master.

2. Web 1.0 does not support mass-publishing. The content on the website is published by the web master and thereby does not leverage the collective intelligence of users.

3. Web 1.0 uses basic hyper text mark up language for publishing content on the internet.

4. Web 1.0 pages do not support machine readable content. Only human who are web readers can understand the content.

5. Web 1.0 provides contact information (email, phone number, fax or address) for communication. Users have to use the off-line world for further communication with this contact information.

6. In Web 1.0, web pages are designed to react instinctively based on the programmed condition. Specific result or response is generated when the programmed condition is satisfied. Web 1.0 model does not understand remote request and can not prepare response for potential request in advance. To clearly understand above characteristics of web 1.0, Yihong Ding in his article on “Evolution of World Wide Web” has analogically correlated World of Web 1.0 with the world of a Newborn baby.

Newborn Baby : I have parents

Web-1.0 Page : Webmasters

Newborn Baby : Watch me, but I won’t explain

Web-1.0 Page : Humans understand, machines don’t

Newborn Baby : Talk to my parents if you want to discuss about me

Web-1.0 Page : Contact information (email, phone number, fax, address, …)

Newborn Baby : My parents decide who my friends are. Actually, I don’t care

Web-1.0 Page : Manually specified web links

Newborn Baby : Hug me, I smile; hit me, I cry (conditional reflex)

Web-1.0 Page : Reactive functions on web pages

Source: Analogy from the Article by Yihong Ding from “The web 1.0 pages are only babies.

Web 2. 0 (Read Write Web)

“Web 2.0 is the understanding that the network is the platform and on the network is platform roles for the business is different. And the cardinal role is user adds value. And figuring out how to built database and things to get better so that more people use that and it’s the secret of web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”[4]

In Web 2.0 the idea of Consumer (Users) and Producer (Web Master) is dissolving. Web 2.o is more about communications and user interactions. Web 2.0 is all about participation. “Content is the King” often cited quote during early web 1.0 days, is now turned in to “User is the King” in Web 2.0. In web 2.0 users communicates through blogging, wikis and social networking websites. Everything on the web is tagged, to facilitate easy and quick navigation. Web 2.0 is also about combining it all in one single page by means of tagging and AJAX with better usability via lots of white space, and a cleaner layout. The API ability makes it possible for programmers to mash up data feeds and databases to cross reference information from multiple sources in one page. In contrast with web 1.0, web 2.0 has collective intelligence of millions of users.

Web 2.0 is all about improved version of World Wide Web with changing role and evolving business model where users learned to communicate with the other users instead of just communicating with the publisher of the content.

Some of the Characteristics of Web 2.0

1. Web 2.0 is the second version of Web providing RIA (Rich Internet Application) by bringing in the desktop experience such as “Drag and Drop” on the webpage in browser.

2. SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) is the key piece in Web 2.0. Buzzwords around SOA are Feeds, RSS, web services and mash up, which defines how Web 2.0 application exposes functionality so that other applications can leverage and integrate those functionalities providing much richer set of applications.

3. Web 2.0 is the Social web. Web 2.0 Application tends to interact much more with the end user. End users are not only the users of the application but also the participants whether by tagging the content, whether he is contributing to the wiki or doing podcast for blogging. Due to the Social nature of application end user is the interval part of the data for the application, proving feedbacks and allowing application to leverage that user going to use it.

4. In Web 2.0 philosophy and strategy is that “The Web is open”. Content is available to be moved and changed by any user. Web site content is not controlled by the people who made the web site but by the user who are using the web site.

5. In Web 2.0 Data is the driving force. Users are spending much more time online and started generating content in their passive time. Web 2.0 requires some of the key technologies to be used in the development of web pages. One of the important technologies is the AJAX which supports development of rich user experience.

6. Web 2.0 websites typically include some of the following key technologies.

– RSS (Really Simple Syndication), which allows users to syndicate, aggregate and to set up the notification of the data using feeds.

– Mashups, which makes it possible to merge the content from different sources, allowing new form of reusing of the information via public interface or APIs.

– Wikis and Forums to support user generated content.

– Tagging, which allows users to specify and attach human readable keyword to web resource.

– AJAX – Asynchronous Java Script and XML, which is the web development technique, allowing exchange of interactive data behind the scene without reloading the web page.

To clearly understand above characteristics of web 2.0, Yihong Ding in his article on “Evolution of World Wide Web” has analogically correlated World of Web 2.0 with the world of a Pre-School Kid.

Pre-School Kid : I have parents

Web-2.0 Page : Webmasters (blog owners)

Pre-School Kid : Parents teach me knowledge (though often not well organized)

Web-2.0 Page : Tagging

Pre-School Kid : I understand but maybe imprecise and incorrect

Web-2.0 Page : Folksonomy

Pre-School Kid : I can deliver and distribute messages, especially for my parents

Web-2.0 Page : Blogging technology

Pre-School Kid : Who my friends are is primarily determined by my parents’ social activities and their teaching

Web-2.0 Page : Social network

Pre-School Kid : Multiple of us can be coordinated to do something beyond individual’s capabilities

Web-2.0 Page : Web widget, mashup

Pre-School Kid : I can do suggestion based on my communication with friends

Web-2.0 Page : Collective intelligence

Following table distinguish the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Web 1.0 is about : Reading

Web 2.0 is about : Reading /Writing

Web 1.0 is about : Publishing

Web 2.0 is about : Feedbacks, Reviews, Personalization

Web 1.0 is about : Linking Content using Hyperlinks

Web 2.0 is about : mashup

Web 1.0 is about : Companies

Web 2.0 is about : CommunityCommunity

Web 1.0 is about : Client-Server

Web 2.0 is about : Peer to Peer

Web 1.0 is about : HTML

Web 2.0 is about : XML

Web 1.0 is about : Home Pages

Web 2.0 is about : Blogs and Wikis

Web 1.0 is about : Portals

Web 2.0 is about : RSS

Web 1.0 is about : Taxonomy

Web 2.0 is about : Tags

Web 1.0 is about : Owning

Web 2.0 is about : Sharing

Web 1.0 is about : Web form

Web 2.0 is about : Web Application

Web 1.0 is about : Hardware Cost

Web 2.0 is about : Bandwidth Cost

Web 3. 0 (Semantic Web)

Web is no longer linking and tagging of information and resources. With the advent of semantic web concept, special information is attached to the resources or information so that machine can understand and read just like human.

Timer Berner Lee envisioned

“I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”

Semantic Web has derived from his vision of web as the universal medium for exchange of data, information and knowledge. Web 3.0 or Semantic Web is an Executable Phase of Web Development where dynamic applications provides interactive services and facilitates machine to machine interaction. Tim Berner Lee has further stated

“People keep asking what Web 3.0 is. I think maybe when you’ve got an overlay of scalable vector graphics – everything rippling and folding and looking misty – on Web 2.0 and access to a semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data, you’ll have access to an unbelievable data resource.” Semantic web is the an extension of World Wide Web in which web content is expressed in machine readable language, not just in nature language, so that user agents can read, process and understand the content using artificial intelligence imitating human behavior. In other words Semantic Web is an extension of the web where content expressed can be processed independently by intelligent software agents.

There can be several agents one can program within the context of vocabulary of the vertical domain.

For example

“Travel Agent”, who keep searching chipset air tickets based on your criteria and notify you when it gets the perfect one.

“Personal Shopper Agent”, who keeps looking for the specific product on the eBay and get it for you once it finds the one that match with all of your criterions.

Similarly we can have “Real Estate Agent”, “Personal Financial Advisor Agent” and many more.

All user is doing is just creating their personal agent which talks with the web services which are exposed publicly and there by taking care of lots of repetitive tasks.

Precisely Web 3.0 = Every human + Every device + Every Information

Characteristics of Semantic Web

1. Unlike database driven websites, In Semantic Web database is not centralized.

2. Semantic Web is the Open System where schema is not fixed as it may take any arbitrary source of data.

3. Semantic Web requires using Meta description languages such as Web Ontology Language and the Resource Description Framework (RDF). Annotation requires lot of time and effort.

Web n.0 – a Glimpse of the Future

Let me add one more element to the previous formula

Web 3.0 = Every human + Every device + Every Information = Everything in the context of current technology advancement.

Web 3.0 is still evolving and it is going to encompass everything. One can not envision anything beyond web 3.0 in the current technology advancement.

Breaking all current technological capabilities Raymond Kurzweil, the inventor of OCR (Optical Character Reader) envisioned Web 4.0 as the Web OS with intelligent user agents acting parallel to human brain. Following figure illustrate the evolution of Web along with technology advancement and the semantics of social connections. Source: Nova Spivack and Radar Networks


The evolution of web has gone through phases as mentioned in this article and that has introduced numerous technologies and concepts in various areas; software, communication, hardware, marketing, advertising, content sharing, publicity, finance and many more.

In a way the World Wide Web has changed the way people were used to look at things earlier. I believe this evolution is never ending and moving towards excellence.