Thought Leadership

How did we do it?

By Colin Walls

Happy Birthday WWW! As you probably heard or read in the news, the World Wide Web just hit an anniversary: it is 20 years since Tim Berners-Lee created the first Web page at CERN. By the time I got to start using it – about 4 years later – the Web already seemed big. It had gained a vast amount of content. E-commerce was starting, with Amazon being the first online shop that most of us looked at. Of course, pornography was everywhere, but I will draw a veil over that. The Internet had been around for some years, but had previously been used exclusively by geeks and scientists, as it was all about protocols and special tools. The Web changed all that.

Considering how new all of this technology really is, I started wondering how we lived our lives before …

This week I had an experience that made me take stock of how the Web fits into my life. I saw on Facebook that a friend was excited about a particular band, who were going to perform in a city near to her. She is someone with whom I was somewhat acquainted 30 odd years ago. How would I have any contact with her without Facebook? I used to enjoy this band back in my early teenage, so I thought that I would like to see them too. It took no time to find their tour schedule. Again, without the Web, I am not sure how I would even start to find that information or even know about the tour? I then bought tickets for a venue not far away. I guess this would have been done with a phone call back in the day, but a few mouse clicks is easier.

Many people say that the Web is responsible for people becoming isolated – just staying at home looking at their screens. That may be true, but my experience will result in me going out and seeing live music, which has got to be good for my mental and emotional wellbeing.

It is interesting that it is the Web that made the Internet accessible to most people and I am sure that, in many people’s minds, the two concepts are interchangeable. However, it is curious to observe how much Internet technology we use today that is not the Web. Just glancing at the taskbar on my computer, I can see several Internet connected applications: Evernote, iTunes, Lightroom, Skype, Spotify. My phone and my iPad are stuffed with them. The oldest Internet application, which we all use, is email. Ironically, that is commonly accessed via the Web, but is really quite separate, with its own protocols – POP3/SMTP, not HTTP. See, I can [still] be a geek too.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at