The web has rapidly evolved over the last 10 to 15 years. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Internet or Facebook generation. So I thought it might be interesting to tell the kiddies about ancient web history, but purely from my own point of view (rather than Wikipedia’s).
When I first started out on the Internet, it was at libraries or other people’s homes. When I finally got the internet it home it was over a 33.6K modem. Imagine that folks – the internet being that slow and using up the phone line while you are on it.
My first website was created using an image editor called ‘Corel Draw’, which saved the picture as ‘html’. It was hosted on a url like this: www.isp.com/~myispusername. The image would take ages to download and there was only one page, but designing it was nice.
From there I progressed to WYSIWYG editors like FrontPage, HomeSite or HotDog. These tools allowed you to create static html. Hosting at the time was done on a free server like geocities which would give you a url like www.geocities.com/crazycitynametogroupcontent/yourusername and they would put banner ads on your pages. The trend at the time was to put up ‘under construction’ images, and replace it when you were finished with a page full of flaming and spinning animated gifs. I swear it’s true, half the internet was either under construction, spinning or on fire.
Then came the age of the guestbooks and hit counters. Everyone needed to use a guestbook and/or hit counter service so that your friends and family could prove that they went to your web page.
After guestbooks and WYSIWYG editors we all started to learn html because many of the WYSIWYG editors showed the html as well as the design surface. We also wanted to have a navigation bar that allowed easy navigation between multiple pages, but we didn’t want to design a navigation bar on every page. So we resorted to iframes.
Then we all realised that iframes meant the URL that appeared in the address bar was not very useful. By this time, because we used guestbooks and counters we started to get cluey about CGI perl scripts and probably even PHP. Now we could use these CGI technologies and html tables for the layout, to create a navigation bar on every page without having to write the html for it many times over. But just imagine the excitement of being able to dynamically create content on your web page! However, not many hosts allowed server side scripting, not for free anyway.
It was around this time that broadband came out, so now with an always-on connection and the availability of dynamic DNS services it became possible to host your home page on your own server. No ads, no hosting fees, all the server side scripting you want, and… a domain name!
Because we were now running our own webservers, server side web applications became much easier to cobble together, and we could actually create something useful, like shared calendars or photo albums.
Now I missed this craze because I was too cheap or sensible to buy windows for a server, but because scripts were nasty non-object oriented demons, ASP.net WebForms abstracted that pesky webby stuff away from the developer. Sadly the html it created was nearly as crap as the WYSIWYG age, and some times abstractions get in the way.
Then Google started to make web application really nice to use and powerful, so now any idiot on the internet can do more with the free services than the elite gurus that wrote or hacked together scripts and hosted them on their own server at home.
Around the same time hosting became free or close to free. The cost of electricity to run your own server made the exercise seem redundant.
And that is how it happened, kiddies.