The world of web design can seem small and lonely because we are often looking at a very small part of the huge picture. Web design is an act of contributing to something far larger, to an interconnected entity of human global consciousness called the World Wide Web. That world is an interesting place, and we have collected some fascinating facts about it.
The Web is a Lot Younger than the Internet
The Web and the Internet are interchangeable in most usages today, but they have different histories. While the Internet has been around since the 1970s, the World Wide Web was invented in 1989 and made available to the public in 1993. It was developed by Tim Berners-Lee, who was working at the CERN physics laboratory in Switzerland. The transformation that turned all the information on the Internet into a World Wide Web was the use of hypertext links and uniform resource locators to tie it all together. The web browser could then be used to collect the documents from these links and display them to the user.
The First Photographic Image Loaded to the Web Was Horrible
The CERN laboratory had an event called the CERN Hadronic Festival, and one of the acts was the Les Horribles Cernettes, an all-girl pop parody band made up of women who worked at the institute. An analyst in the Computer Science department helped out with the group and also took pictures of them. When Tim Berners-Lee asked the analyst for some images, he sent a photo of the group that had been taken on July 18, 1992. The exact date of publication to the web is not clear, as it took some time for the image to be stable. [image link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Horribles_Cernettes#/media/File:Les_Horribles_Cernettes_in_1992.jpg]
The Ancestor of Hypertext Was Memex
In 1945, a visionary article came out in the Atlantic Monthly title “As We May Think.” The article was written by Dr. Vannevar Bush who had been in charge of coordinating American scientists during the Second World War. Bush wanted to create an agenda for these six thousand scientists to turn their work from war to creating a grand time of peace. He argued that we needed a way to access and share the collective knowledge of mankind.
One of the pieces of this new vision was the idea of a memex, a system of interconnected microfilms that would compress and store all the existing forms of knowledge, records, and communications. This vision was heavily influential on the development of hypertext systems.
Spam First Hit the Internet in 1978
Most email messages are what is generally called spam, unsolicited commercial requests, often for shady products. Spam filters catch most of these messages now, but they are still out there using up all kinds of resources. The first known case of this practice was in 1978, when Gary Turk sent out a message to 400 people, advertising his computers. The term “spam” evolved from an old Monty Python sketch. A customer is trying to order breakfast, but everything on the menu includes spam. Many items have spam, then spam, then more spam. Finally the whole thing turns into a song about spam. The repetition of “spam, spam, spam,” was catchy, and it seemed to describe certain repetitive behaviors. Geeks who played online games called MUDs (multi-user dungeons) used the term to describe any kind of rapidly repeated behavior.
In 1994 the popular online forum, Usenet, was suddenly flooded with an advertisement for legal services. A pair of lawyers, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, decided to advertise their immigration services and even claimed they had a first amendment right to do so. They had broken an unwritten code for the USENET newsgroup and the term spam was used to describe their actions.
The First Banner Ad was a Huge Success
Modern banner ads survive with a very low click-through rate, usually around 0.04%. Even search-based text ads which are arguably targeted at what the user most wants only get click through rates of 1% to 2%. But the first banner ad achieved a click through rate of 44% for its first four months. It was an ad for AT&T that promised to take the visitor to new places when they clicked on it. The ad ran on Hotwired.com, which at the time had only six advertisers.
Web Design Really Begins with the Mosaic Browser
Up until 1994 most browsers for the World Wide Web were single-line readers. But in 1994 Marc Andreeson and Eric Bina created the Mosaic browser which integrated text, image, and sound files. They also chose to release the browser publicly. Later, they went on to develop the Netscape browser, while Microsoft got into the game with Explorer.
Just some fun tidbits we have scraped up along the way. If you have another fun fact or anything to add, let us know via a comment! You can see our previous post on this topic here: Funny Facts About Web Design 2015