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The Web turns 20, and just got going

india Updated: Mar 15, 2009 22:28 IST
Narayan Madhavan
Narayan Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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Last week, the World Wide Web turned 20 years old, in a manner of speaking.

The Web was conceptualised by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on March 13, 1989 in a research paper – as a network of disparate computer networks to exchange and search information using a shared communications framework. He later built the first Internet browser and demonstrated his idea successfully on Christmas day, 1990.

Sir Tim founded the World Wide Web consortium in 1994 to evolve new standards that helped the formation of Internet companies.

Look how far we have come since then! Through the next decade, like a fast-growing child, the Net had acquired free email, online storage, content networks, communities, blogs, message boards, discussion groups – and e-commerce and e-governance. And, on the negative side, spam, viruses, cyber crimes and invasion of privacy! Ironically, Sir Tim said last week he had once become a victim of an online fraud himself.

I now book my movie tickets, and even choose my seat, sitting at home, using sites like bookmyshow.com. US newspapers are hit because classified ads largely migrated to the Net, and also because hordes of younger readers like to get their news on their computers. Social networking sites are eating into television viewership.

Now, think of the Internet “dotcom” bubble that happened in 2000 and 2001, which contrasted the boom that kind of started with the arrival of Netscape on Wall Street. The browser that started the market boom (Netscape Navigator) has disappeared from our desktops, showing how fickle things can be in the ever-changing Internet landscape.

And we have only just begun. When a young man or woman turns 20, it may be the end of teenage years, but there is a vast life ahead. The financial bubble bludgeoned many young Internet companies because the long-term value of the medium was interpreted by the market as natural determinants of short-term revenues of individual firms. Many real winners started later.

Fingers were burnt, but a new world was made. That world is alive and growing.