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History

Timeline: The 30-Year History of the World Wide Web

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The World Wide Web is now as old as the typical millennial.

On March 12, the World Wide Web celebrated its 30th birthday. Over the last three decades, we’ve seen it mature from the first webpage to having a ubiquitous presence in our lives.

Visualizing the History of the World Wide Web

Today’s infographic comes to us from the App Institute, and highlights key milestones since the inception of the web. We’ll look at some major developments on this timeline that defined what the web is today.

30 Years of the World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee Proposes The World Wide Web on March 12, 1989

Although the giant network of computers that formed the Internet – and its “ARPANET” predecessor – already existed, there was no universal way of writing, transmitting, storing, and accessing the Internet in a clean and organized manner.

A computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the first formalized proposal of what he would later call the “World Wide Web”.

Web Proposal Flow Chart
A flow chart of Berners-Lee’s vision in 1989. Source: W3

From this vision, his work would go on to develop and influence assets the web still uses today like hypertext (links), webpages, and browsers.

The founder of the World Wide Web is still around, and most recently Berners-Lee has been fighting for his vision of an open and decentralized Internet.

Browser Wars

Mosaic was the first browser to popularize “surfing the web”. Launched in 1993, Mosaic’s graphical user interface (GUI) made it easy for the average user to browse multimedia webpages.

Soon after, developers from Mosaic launched Netscape Navigator in 1994, introducing features used today like HTTP cookies and JavaScript.

The first browser war began when Microsoft launched Internet Explorer in 1995. Unlike Netscape, Internet Explorer was free of charge. Microsoft overtook Netscape with help from their deep pockets and the fact that they held over 90% of the desktop operating system market share.

This would eventually lead to the U.S. government filing an anti-trust case against Microsoft for engaging in anti-competitive practices – but Internet Explorer escaped mostly unaffected, with it’s market share climbing to 96% by 2002.

Today, the second browser war has largely been dominated by Google Chrome, which launched in 2008 and overtook Internet Explorer by 2012.

Browser Market Share
Source: StatCounter

Web Crawling: Search

Search engines helped popularize the web by making information easily accessible and searchable. Web Crawler was the first search engine that allowed users to search for words and terms on a webpage.

Web Crawler Search Engine
Source: App Institute

Since then, dozens of search engines have launched, but one player has dominated the search market. Today, over 90% of searches online are made through Google.

The Social Internet

In the late 1990s, online diaries and “blogging” websites like Open Diary, LiveJournal and Blogger popularized people sharing their thoughts to an audience online.

This evolved into social networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, which allowed people to “add” their friends and follow their lives online.

Today, of course, Facebook dominates the Social Media Universe with over 2.2 billion users.

Smartphone Revolution

The launch of iPhones and Androids in 2007 – 2008 ushered in a new era where people could access the web from their phones. Before this, websites on phones were clunky to use and mostly resembled their desktop counterparts. Third-party apps and websites designed for mobile touchscreens changed the way we browsed the web.

By 2016, mobile phones surpassed desktops and laptops as our favorite way to access the web:

Web Access Device Market Share
Source: StatCounter

Privacy: You’re the Product Now

With billions of people accessing the web, the trail of data left behind has become extremely profitable for tech giants like Google and Facebook. The data they collect from people’s private information, online behaviors, and demographics allow advertisers to perfectly target consumers.

With ever growing privacy scandals, and even the creation of surveillance states, how people’s privacy and data is handled will likely be the most important issue for the future of the web.

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History

The History of the World, in One Video

This epic attempt to condense the history of the world — including the rise and fall of empires — fits into a single video.

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Throughout the history of the world, many civilizations have risen and fallen.

You may be familiar with the achievements of prominent societies like the Romans, Mongols, or Babylonians, but how do all of their stories intertwine over time and geography?

Visualizing the History of the World

Today’s video comes to us from Ollie Bye, and it attempts to integrate the histories of all major civilizations known by historians into a single, epic video.

Similar to the Histomap, it’s pretty much impossible for a video like this to be perfect due to biases and a general lack of data. However, it’s still a compelling attempt at showing global history in a short and sweet fashion.

Let’s look at some specific moments on the video that particularly stand out.

750 AD: The Umayyad Caliphate

One of the largest empires in history, the Umayyad Caliphate peaked sometime around 750 AD.

Umayyad Caliphate

Conquering most of North Africa, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe (including modern-day Spain, Portugal, and France), the Umayyads commanded a formidable territory with an area of 11,100,000 km² (4,300,000 sq. mi) and encompassing 33 million people.

1279: Mongol Dominance

No history of the world is complete without a mention of the Mongols.

Nearby societies have always been on edge when nomadic tribes in the Eurasian Steppe entered into organized confederations. Similar to the Huns or various Turk federations, the Mongols were known for their proficiency with horses, bows, and tactics like the feigned retreat.

Under the leadership of Temüjin ⁠— also known as Genghis Khan ⁠— the Mongols conquered one of the largest empires by land.

Mongol Empire Map

The empire reached its greatest extent just two years after the death of Genghis Khan.

Later on, it fragmented into smaller empires that were also quite notable in the context of world history. For example, Kublai Khan — the grandson of Genghis Khan — even went on to begin the influential Yuan Dynasty in China.

1346: The Black Death

The video also shows other vital stats, such as an estimate of global population through the ages.

In the mid-14th century, you can see this number take a rare U-turn, as millions of people die from the infamous and deadly Bubonic Plague.

Spread of the Black Death

The Black Death ⁠— one of the most devastating pandemics in the history of the world ⁠— hit Europe in 1346, and it eventually killed 30-60% of the continent’s population. There is no exact figure on the final death toll, but historians estimate it to be somewhere between 75 and 200 million people throughout Eurasia.

1418: The Age of Discovery

The video also provides a 10,000-foot view of the Age of Discovery, a period of time in which European powers explored the world’s oceans.

The Age of Discovery

This colonial period marks the beginning of globalization, creating wide-ranging impacts that set the stage for more modern history.

In the video, it’s possible to see European colonies develop in all parts of the world, as well as how they eventually morphed into the countries that dot the globe today.

Playing the History Game

While it is certainly ambitious, not everyone will agree that this is a successful attempt at portraying world history – even in the limited scope of time allotted.

One key detail that seems to be missing, for example, is showing the development of the indigenous societies that existed in North America for thousands of years. That said, it’s also not clear what data and records are available to show these maps over many centuries of time.

Despite the possible flaws, the video does pack a lot of information into a short period of time, creating a compelling opportunity for learning and discussion. Like the Histomap, it may not be a definitive history of the world – but instead, it’s a useful attempt that stimulates our appetite for more information about the world and the societies that inhabit it.

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Economy

What is a Commodity Super Cycle?

The prices of energy, agriculture, livestock and metals tell the story of human development. Learn about the commodity super cycle in this infographic.

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Visualizing the Commodity Super Cycle

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world has seen its population and the need for natural resources boom.

As more people and wealth translate into the demand for global goods, the prices of commodities—such as energy, agriculture, livestock, and metals—have often followed in sync.

This cycle, which tends to coincide with extended periods of industrialization and modernization, helps in telling a story of human development.

Why are Commodity Prices Cyclical?

Commodity prices go through extended periods during which prices are well above or below their long-term price trend. There are two types of swings in commodity prices: upswings and downswings.

Many economists believe that the upswing phase in super cycles results from a lag between unexpected, persistent, and positive trends to support commodity demand with slow-moving supply, such as the building of a new mine or planting a new crop. Eventually, as adequate supply becomes available and demand growth slows, the cycle enters a downswing phase.

While individual commodity groups have their own price patterns, when charted together they form extended periods of price trends known as “Commodity Super Cycles” where there is a recognizable pattern across major commodity groups.

How can a Commodity Super Cycle be Identified?

Commodity super cycles are different from immediate supply disruptions; high or low prices persist over time.

In our above chart, we used data from the Bank of Canada, who leveraged a statistical technique called an asymmetric band pass filter. This is a calculation that can identify the patterns or frequencies of events in sets of data.

Economists at the Bank of Canada employed this technique using their Commodity Price Index (BCPI) to search for evidence of super cycles. This is an index of the spot or transaction prices in U.S. dollars of 26 commodities produced in Canada and sold to world markets.

  • Energy: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas
  • Metals and Minerals: Gold, Silver, Nickel, Copper, Aluminum, Zinc, Potash, Lead, Iron
  • Forestry: Pulp, Lumber, Newsprint
  • Agriculture: Potatoes, Cattle, Hogs, Wheat, Barley, Canola, Corn
  • Fisheries: Finfish, Shellfish

Using the band pass filter and the BCPI data, the chart indicates that there are four distinct commodity price super cycles since 1899.

  • 1899-1932:
    The first cycle coincides with the industrialization of the United States in the late 19th century.
  • 1933-1961:
    The second began with the onset of global rearmament before the Second World War in the 1930s.
  • 1962-1995:
    The third began with the reindustrialization of Europe and Japan in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
  • 1996 – Present:
    The fourth began in the mid to late 1990s with the rapid industrialization of China

What Causes Commodity Cycles?

The rapid industrialization and growth of a nation or region are the main drivers of these commodity super cycles.

From the rapid industrialization of America emerging as a world power at the beginning of the 20th century, to the ascent of China at the beginning of the 21st century, these historical periods of growth and industrialization drive new demand for commodities.

Because there is often a lag in supply coming online, prices have nowhere to go but above long-term trend lines. Then, prices cannot subside until supply is overshot, or growth slows down.

Is This the Beginning of a New Super Cycle?

The evidence suggests that human industrialization drives commodity prices into cycles. However, past growth was asymmetric around the world with different countries taking the lion’s share of commodities at different times.

With more and more parts of the world experiencing growth simultaneously, demand for commodities is not isolated to a few nations.

Confined to Earth, we could possibly be entering an era where commodities could perpetually be scarce and valuable, breaking the cycles and giving power to nations with the greatest access to resources.

Each commodity has its own story, but together, they show the arc of human development.

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