This is the first article in a series about Web Development exploring the origins of the Internet, the birth of the Web and improvements in user experience from HTML to Silverlight.
Origins of the Internet and the birth of the Web
The origins of the Internet can be traced back to the creation of the first packet switching network by the United States Department of Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1969. The ARPANET initially used the 1822 protocol which supported basic data transmission and receipt acknowledgement but proved inadequate at handling multiple connections to different applications on the same host. The first message to be sent using ARPANET was “Lo”, the intention was to send the word “Login” but the system crashed after the first two letters.
The 1822 protocol was replaced by the NCP (Network Control Program) protocol which supported several technologies still used today such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Email. In fact the first network email is thought to have been sent by Ray Tomlinson between two machines sitting side by side but connected only by ARPANET. It was Ray Tomlinson who introduced the use of the @ sign to separate account and domain names in email addresses.
In 1983 TCP/IP replaced the NCP protocol on ARPANET allowing communication with other similar networks. In 1985 the NSF (National Science Foundation) funded the creation of several supercomputer centres at key US universities and in 1986 created a network between them using the TCP/IP protocol called the NSFNET. Network traffic across the NSFNET grew exponentially and the backbone was upgraded to 1.5M/bits in 1988. At the same time the network was opened up to commercial interests with the NSFNET connected to the commercial MCI Mail system in 1989. The Internet was born.
Meanwhile at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) Tim Berners-Lee was working on a project based on the concept of hypertext to facilitate the sharing of research amongst his colleagues. In 1989 CERN was the biggest Internet node in Europe and Lee saw the potential that hypertext had if linked with the TCP/IP and DNS protocols. In 1989 he put forward a proposal for the creation of the ‘World Wide Web’ for which he built the first Web browser, editor and server. The first Web site was published on the 6th August 1991; it featured information about the Web and a list of other sites which was maintained by Lee. In 1993 CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to use and in the same year the graphical Web browser Mosaic was released. Both of these things caused exponential growth of the Web and led to it becoming the most popular Internet protocol.
1993 to now; Developments in Web technology
When the Web was first created browsers did not support inline images, instead users would click a link to the image file which would then open in a new window. However in 1993 the Mosaic Web browser was released implementing inline image support and a much friendlier user interface. The release of Mosaic made the Web more consumer-friendly giving it mass appeal. As such Mosaic is often credited with the early growth of the Web. In fact the basic design of the browser has changed little in the last 15 years.
In 1994 a new browser called Netscape Navigator was released, this added some new features that the Mosaic browser didn’t have. The key thing that Netscape offered over Mozilla was its ability to display Web sites before all the content had downloaded. Where Mozilla would wait until all html and images had been downloaded (which could take some time over dial up connections) Netscape began rendering the content as soon as the connection was made. This gave Netscape the edge and led to it having over 70% share of the browser market by 1996.
As browsers have developed so have the platforms for Web development allowing authors to create content a world apart from the text only pages seen back in the early days of the Web.
Two other technologies which allow greater levels of interaction as well as much improved graphical capability are Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Both technologies allow the creation of complex animation including video streaming whilst still allowing server side communication.
Over the coming months I will help you begin Web development from setting up hosting and implementing server-side code right through to cutting edge user experiences using AJAX and ultimately Silverlight.