A brief history of the Web
Before you begin looking at examples of mashups and what they can offer, it often
helps to look back at the growth of the Web and the technological trends that have
been significant in its development.
The origins of the Internet as it is today can be found in the Cold War era, which was
a time when most people were more concerned about the threat of impending
nuclear annihilation than the possibility of watching the antics of a skateboarding
dog on YouTube.
This threat helped drive the development of interconnected computer networks and
a communications infrastructure. During October 1969, the first node of ARPANET,
an initiative by the U.S. Department of Defense and the grandfather of today’s
Internet, went online.
Over the next 20 years, networking efforts continued, with more mainframes and computers around
the world being connected under a single networking infrastructure and with TCP/IP networking acting
as a common communications protocol. At this time, the main users of these emergent computer
networks were mainly the government and academic institutions, and they benefited from the ability
to exchange data and transmit messages instantaneously.
One of the main drawbacks of this early “internet” was of course the technical barrier to entry—there
were no web pages or e-mail clients; there were simply terminals where users typed commands, which
demanded a certain level of technical savvy. This all changed in 1991, when researchers at CERN in
Switzerland unveiled the World Wide Web, an application based on Tim Berners-Lee’s work developing
the Hyptertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
Nontechnical individuals could now browse through pages of information, with support for text formatting
and images. This first web browser contained many familiar features that are still present in
the browsers you use today, including browsing history and the Back and Forward buttons.
With the technical barrier to entry lifted, academia embraced the World Wide Web like never before.
Sharing research papers and laboratory data was now easier than ever, and communities were brought
together in ways never thought possible. Usenet, for example, brought together people from around
the world with common interests and allowed for free discussion.
Through the early 1990s, the software improved, and interest continued to spread beyond the technical
and academic communities. By 1996, the word Internet had become a household name, with businesses
looking at ways through which they could use this emerging technology as a new medium to
reach their customers.
Some companies simply created a basic home page that was a pointer to their offline operations.
Others provided services—from simple mechanisms to communicate with new and existing customers
to fully blown online shopping operations. And online advertising, in the form of basic banner ads,
started appearing on the Web.
In the late 1990s, a new breed of company started to take advantage of this growth in public awareness—
the start-up. Budding entrepreneurs were drawn to the Web because of the large amounts of
venture capital available. Suddenly the market was flooded by masses of online-only companies that
offered innovative products and services to customers worldwide. Within a few years, though, many
had gone bankrupt.
One of the main reasons the dot-com boom went bust was not a lack of innovation but a lack of a feasible
business model. Dot-com start-ups often operated on the “get big fast” principle, relying on
investment to fund this growth. If the money ran out, then a fledgling company would soon find itself