The future of the modern web

Think about this for a moment. How would the world look if humans were not able to pass information across? There was no way for us to pass our thoughts and discovery from one person to another. We were just beings orbiting in the space of our ideas. Unable to communicate with one another. I feel we would not have been able to last as long as we have.

The ability to pass information across has been absolutely important in the survival and prosperity of the human race, right from the hunter-gatherer era, where there were many unexplored frontiers, passing information across determined life or death. Imagine if you lived during that era and no one told you Karen got food poisoning and died from eating berries that came from a particular tree. That is very useful information to know!

We have come a long since then, obviously. The question now is, where are we in the age of information sharing, and where do you think we can be in 10, 20 and even 30 years from now? Now, no one can precisely predict the future of anything, of course. But we can try to understand where we are going by understanding where we came from.

That started with the idea of sharing information over the internet through hyperlinks (a link from one document to another location). Sir Tim Bernee-Lee, a software engineer and all-around nice guy, was the person that came up with the idea of linking documents together. He worked for really brilliant scientists. He found it challenging to share their research work because each computer was configured differently with a different program which he found really frustrating.

A quote on Tim Bernee lee complains about how research work was shared

So like any great invention ever made, he developed the first web browser with a web server( A web server is a computer that runs websites) that ran on a NEXT(now apple, kinda) computer.

A picture of the first web server that ran on a NEXT computer

He then launched the first website, which actually still runs to this day; this might not be the fanciest web page in the world(thank god for CSS), but it was the first.

He also developed the URL, hypertext markup language and the hypertext transfer protocol to work with this web page. And the web page was running on the first web browser called the world wide web, which is often confused for the internet. Fun fact: it is actually faster to say world wide web than it is to say www, it is not easier to type, but it is still a fun fact :).

Despite being a breakthrough, the world wide web came with many hindrances. It was only accessible to people who used the next operating system, making it not ready for mainstream use because of how expensive NEXT computers were until the line-mode browser. The second-ever web browser allowed for multiple operating systems and not only Tim Apple’s, which was in its sense revolutionary and allowed the web to be accessed mainstream. And with the web becoming more mainstream with the introduction of CSS in 1996 for styling webpages and the creation of NCSA Mosaic, the first web browser that allowed multimedia services.

The web gradually moved from static HTML web pages, regarded as web 1.0. To a more user-focused, user-generated dynamic web. The dynamic web gave way to new technologies like AJAX(Asynchronous Javascript), the DOM(Document Object Model) to update fragments of the pages without having the whole page reload. Adobe Flash also became popular because it could do things HTML could not do then at the client-side. At the server-side, technologies like PHP and Perl were used to output data dynamically using information from files and databases.

Web 2.0 was very customer-driven and led to creating social media sites like Myspace, Twitter, Facebook and other blogging, podcasting and networking sites. This ultimately made us more connected.

We could connect to people more than ever before, but there was still a disconnect. Tim Bernee-Lee believed that the next form of the web would be open linked data shared between enterprises to enable easy access between platforms, the semantic web(Web 3.0). The idea behind this was to improve the user experience than ever before. Consider how you can sign in to a completely different website with your Google account. The website would have access to all your necessary information without you having to fill it in manually. This idea of open linked data has ushered in a new wave of technology such as google maps, AI-driven systems like google duplex and self-driving cars, youtube recommendation systems, how amazon delivers goods you dreamt about in your sleep. At first glance, this might sound either amazing or terrifying. Think about it, your personal information and data you trust these private companies can be or are being sold; in this age, it is almost impossible to be a private citizen.

And on the other hand, you can think, well, everything is so seamless and effortless now; You may like all the advancements in technology that has been made. The only reason google assistant is way better than Siri is because of the amount of user data they keep as opposed to the amount of user data apple keeps. I rather give my data to get better service and more streamlined content. I believe that it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. There should be a fine line between protecting people’s privacy and making the best use of available data. Users should know and make informed decisions on what data is collected from them and why. And with the magnitude of information that passes through the world wide web. It is increasingly tough to curtail the spread of misinformation and hate amongst each other irrespective of all the good the “free web” has brought us. False information is spreading faster than ever before because of the voice the new web has given us.

But where do we go from here now? One thing is for sure we will be more connected than ever before, not only with one another but with computers where we and our computers would have a very autonomous relationship with our computers where you give your data for a better experience. They collect your data to serve you better.

And with a lot of talks about privacy and companies making an effort to keep our data more secure and private. We might very well have the best of both sides. And on the developer spectrum, with the rise of web assembly(a javascript alternative), we would be able to do a lot of things like playing video games, video editing, 3d rendering, and so many high-performance work without lag and won’t have to pass through third-party stores. Figma is currently powered through web assembly, and it is probably here to stay. With the rise of AI-powered code such as GitHub copilot, we would finally be able to automate the boring, repetitive work and focus on the more technical aspects of development, just like real pilots. I am actually really excited about what the future has for us as we become more and more dependent on the modern web.

If you enjoyed this article, consider clapping for it until you get tired :).

The future of the modern web was originally published in Noteworthy – The Journal Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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