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WWW at 25 – impact and a look back

March 17, 2014

The World Wide Web turned 25 last week. When the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked for users’ overall judgment on the impact of the Internet, here’s what they said:

  • 90% say it has been good for them personally, 6% say bad thing, and 3% feel it has been both.
  • 76% say it has been good for society, 15% say bad, 8% say equally good and bad.
  • 76% said the people they witnessed or encountered online were mostly kind.
  • 53% say it would be, at minimum, “very hard” to give up.

Courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, here’s the the home page of the first website I built. It launched in May 1996 with a really cumbersome URL (that’s why I love URL shorteners today).

My First Website

To give you a little context, here are some facts about the Internet in the summer of 1996:

  • There was no Google and there were no blogs.
  • There were no webmail sites; people typically used proprietary software for email.
  • Typical screen resolution was 800 x 600 pixels (today twice that).
  • Nearly everyone dialed in with a modem, and a good connection speed was 28K (today 100x that).
  • In the US, about 20% of people were using the Internet (87% today). Globally, the number was about 2% (40% today).
  • Americans with access spent an average of a minute a day on the Web (nearly an hour today).

Students and change

Technological change overall continues at a rapid pace, although Internet-related developments have become less dramatic. Today’s college students have been carried along by this river of change since birth. It really should not surprise us if they don’t have the perspective to grasp that what they have now is very different from what they will have in 25 years.


Image credit: “Peggy’s Birthday Cake” by Jo on Flickr

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