Business Technology

25 interesting facts about the Web on its 25th birthday

5 min read

12 March 2014

Today, the world's fastest growing communication medium, the World Wide Web (WWW), turns 25.

To celebrate its anniversary, here are 25 interesting facts that outline its history, present impact and the way it’s shaping our future.

1. In March 1989, British engineer and scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), wrote a proposal for what would become the World Wide Web.

2. Berners-Lee received a knighthood in 2004 from Queen Elizabeth II.

3. The launch of the Mosaic web browser in 1993 is considered a turning point in the history of the WWW. The graphical browser was developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. Mosaic is credited for popularising the WWW.

4. Internet and Web are commonly mistaken for the same thing. While the Internet refers to the networking infrastructure that connects millions of computers across the world, the WWW is the collection of text pages, music, files, digital photographs and animation which users can access over the Internet. The Web represents only one part of the Internet.

5. The first website to ever go online was on August 6, 1991, http://info.cern.ch.

6. According to Netcraft, there are now more than 227 million websites, containing 65 billion web pages.

7. In the West, the average “digital birth” (the age at which a child first has an online presence) is around six months old. This is because parents email pictures to their friends of their new baby and post up photos online.

8. There are more devices connected to the Web than living human beings.

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9. World Wide Web was finalized as the name of the project, after it was preferred over Information Mesh, Mine of Information and Information Mine. 

10. The use of ‘www’ as a subdomain name is not required by any technical or policy standard. In fact, the first ever web server was called nxoc01.cern.ch.

11. In the 1990s, Bill Gates reportedly said that an Internet browser was ‘a trivial piece of software’. He later launched one of the most famous web browsers of all time “Internet Explorer’.

12. Google was the most visited website in 2013, but 10 years ago it was Myspace and AOL making history.

13. According to figures by W3Tech, over half of webpages are written in English, down from 56.4 per cent in 2002, as other languages are growing more popular online.

14. The web has changed the way ordinary people can become famous, CNN argues. The majority of today’s celebrities owe their fame to their web presence. 

15. According to a report from Latitude, 60 per cent of people admit that they have a better opinion about a brand depending on the website experience they offer.

16. Most things built on the web are neither open nor free. Platforms have built fortunes from exploiting the facilities offered by the web. The only exception is Wikipedia.

17. When Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal, his boss was the first of many people who didn’t get it initially. His manager described the web as “vague but interesting”.

18. Berners-Lee uploaded the first photo on the Web in 1992, an image of the CERN house band Les Horribles Cernettes. 

19. The famous sites Amazon, Twitter and eBay almost had different names. Amazon was supposed to be named ‘Cadabra’, Twitter was almost ‘Jitter’, while eBay could have been known as ‘echobay’.

20. Archie is considered the world’s first Internet search engine. It was used as a tool for indexing FTP archives, allowing people to find specific files.

21. The Web has a huge impact on the environment, as it is largely powered by big server farms located around the world that need massive quantities of electricity for computers. Nobody really knows the web’s overall environmental impact.

22. It is the fastest growing communication medium of all time, taking four years to reach the first 50 million people, compared to radio (38 years) and television (13 years).

23. The term ‘surfing the Internet’ was coined by Jean Armour Polly in 1992.

24. Although anyone can launch a website, the majority of the top 100 websites are run by corporations, with the only big exception being Wikipedia.

25. In 1945, American engineer Vannevar Bush suggested in an article for The Atlantic, a system called memex into which people would compress and store information. “Wholly new forms of encyclopaedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them,” he said.