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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The Incredible Historical Map That Changed Cartography
Check out the Fra Mauro Mappa Mundi (c. 1450s), a historical map that formed a bridge between medieval and renaissance worldviews.
The Incredible Historical Map That Changed Cartography
This map is the latest in our Vintage Viz series, which presents historical visualizations along with the context needed to understand them.
In a one-paragraph story called On Exactitude in Science (Del Rigor en la Ciencia), Jorge Luis Borges imagined an empire where cartography had reached such an exact science that only a map on the same scale of the empire would suffice.
The Fra Mauro Mappa Mundi (c. 1450s), named for the lay Camaldolite monk and cartographer whose Venetian workshop created it, is not nearly as large, at a paltry 77 inches in diameter (196 cm). But its impact and significance as a bridge between Middle Age and Renaissance thought certainly rivaled Borges’ imagined map.
One of ‘the Wonders of Venice’
Venice was the undisputed commercial power in the Mediterranean, whose trade routes connected east and west, stretching to Flanders, London, Algeria, and beyond.
This network was protected by fleets of warships built at the famous Arsenale di Venezia, the largest production facility in the West, whose workforce of thousands of arsenalotti built ships on an assembly line, centuries before Henry Ford.
The lion of St Mark guards the land gate to the Arsenale di Venezia, except instead of the usual open bible in its hands offering peace, this book is closed, reflecting its martial purpose. Source: Wikipedia
The Mappa Mundi (literally “map of the world”) was considered one of the wonders of Venice with a reputation that reached the Holy Land. It is a circular planisphere drawn on four sheets of parchment, mounted onto three poplar panels and reinforced by vertical battens.
The map is painted in rich reds, golds, and blues; this last pigment was obtained from rare lapis lazuli, imported from mines in Afghanistan. At its corners are four spheres showing the celestial and sublunar worlds, the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), and an illumination of the Garden of Eden by Leonardo Bellini (active 1443-1490).
Japan (on the left edge, called the Isola de Cimpagu) appears here for the first time in a Western map. And contradicting Ptolemaic tradition, it also shows that it was possible to circumnavigate Africa, presaging the first European journey around the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.
NASA called the historical map “stunning” in its accuracy.
A Historical Map Between Two Worlds
Medieval maps, like the Hereford Mappa Mundi (c. 1300), were usually oriented with east at the top, because that’s where the Garden of Eden was thought to be. Fra Mauro, however, chose to orient his to the south, perhaps following Muslim geographers such as Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Idrisi.
Significantly, the Garden of Eden is placed outside of geographic space and Jerusalem is no longer at the center, though it is still marked by a windrose. The nearly 3,000 place names and descriptions are written in the Venetian vernacular, rather than Latin.
At the same time, as much as Fra Mauro’s map is a departure from the past, it also retains traces of a medieval Christian worldview. For example, included on the map are the Kingdom of the Magi, the Kingdom of Prester John, and the Tomb of Adam.
Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae (c. 600–625). Source: Wikipedia
The circular planisphere also follows the medieval T-O schema, first described by Isidore of Seville, with Asia occupying the top half of the circle, and Europe and Africa each occupying the bottom two quarters (Fra Mauro turns the ‘T’ on its side, to reflect a southern orientation). Around the circle, are many islands, beyond which is the “dark sea” where only shipwreck and misfortune await.
Fra Mauro’s Legacy
Fra Mauro died some time before 20 October 1459, and unfortunately his contributions fell into obscurity soon thereafter; until 1748, it was believed that the Mappa Mundi was a copy of a lost map by Marco Polo.
In 1811, the original was moved from Fra Mauro’s monastery of San Michele to the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, following the suppression of religious orders in the Napoleonic era, where it can be viewed today.
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