The World Wide Web as we know it today is an ever expanding sphere of web pages and applications designed to feed humanity’s thirst for knowledge, connectivity and entertainment through videos, photos and interactive content. But have you ever wondered how this information – neatly packaged into an accessible and appealing website – came to be? Who are the great minds behind the web design and development – and more recently, web application development – that ensure easy access to information for the masses?
They are non-other than web developers, a role that is fast gaining prominence as a key entity in any forward-looking organisation. A web developer’s role is an amalgamation of creativity and technical expertise, with the end-result being a functional and user-friendly website complemented by an aesthetically-pleasing interface.
Getting to know Sir Tim Berners-Lee
The founding father of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, was instrumental in the development of three fundamental technologies – HTML (HyperText Markup Language), URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) – that became the cornerstone of web design and development as we know it today.
As a software engineer at CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) in the late 80s, Sir Tim noticed that there was no one medium by which information could be shared, which meant that different information on different computers had to be accessed individually. He saw a way around this disconnect by take advantage of an emerging technology called hypertext, and by 1990, had developed the first web page served on the open internet. Sir Tim also fashioned the first web page editor/browser – “WorldWideWeb.app” – and the first web server, “httpd“.
In the years that followed, the evolution of web technologies enabled a new generation of web developers to re-imagine the web experience of the average user. Sir Tim was a visionary who had this to say about the future of web design and development:
“One way to think about the magnitude of the changes to come is to think about how you went about your business before powerful Web search engines. You probably wouldn’t have imagined that a world of answers would be available to you in under a second. The next set of advances will have an different effect, but similar in magnitude.”
The rise of web browsers
The arrival of the World Wide Web placed the field of web design and developers in the limelight and catalysed a string of innovations in the realm of web browsing, which resulted in the creation of Mosaic, credited as the first graphic-based web browser. Co-developed by Marc Lowell Andreessen and Eric Bina in 1993, Mosaic’s key feature was the image tag, which enabled images to be viewed together with content on the same web page, instead of in a separate window. Mosaic’s popularity lay in its user-friendly graphical interface and easy navigation features, as well as the availability of hyperlinks, which allowed users to retrieve a document with a single click. Andreessen would later go on to develop Netscape Navigator, the dominant web of the 1990s whose popularity was gradually eclipsed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser within half a decade.
Netscape Navigator’s browser code was later made open-source and subsequently became the base for the development of the Mozilla Firefox internet browser. Co-created by American software engineers Blake Aaron Ross and Dave Hyatt, Firefox was introduced to the masses in 2004 and quickly became the preferred alternative to Internet Explorer, with its streamlined and simple features. Within four short months of its official release, Firefox was downloaded by an estimated 23 million people. As of February 2017, W3Counter reported that the Firefox web browser commanded a market share of 9%, putting it in third place, after Chrome and Safari.
Of course, the story of the advent of web browsers would not be complete without a mention of Google Chrome, a freeware web browser developed by Google. Founded in 1996 by Stanford University alumni Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google specialises in internet-related services, one of which was web browser Chrome, released in 2008, barely four years after Firefox burst onto the internet scene. W3Counter statistics show that as of February 2017, Google Chrome remains the web browser with the largest marketshare at 57.2%, which is way ahead of second-placed Safari at 13.2%.
An optimistic future in web design and development
The field of web design and development and web application development have always been premised on accessibility, adaptability and practicality. Its progress over the years has been gradual but certain, and the future of web design and developers is surely promising. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for web developers is bright, with total employment projected to grow more by than 25% through 2024. Web developers can expect to earn quite a high salary as they gain more experience over the years. Web design and developers are a staple in most organisations today, and the pervasiveness of digital disruption and innovative technology will ensure that this remains status quo for many years to come.
We hope that this article introduced you to the background of websites. It seemed like the perfect topic because we spend so much time on the internet, so it makes sense to find out what happened behind the scenes before the world wide web became what it is today!
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