The evolution of the web

Some might look at the World Wide Web as a story of creation over seven significant time periods. Others might see it as a story of evolution through daily, incremental improvements and additional services or experiences.

Nonetheless, the history of the web is a short one, with the first piece of HTML code being written in 1990. This post is going to look at the major chapters that have shaped the web and the current key forces at play that will impact our favourite place to learn, engage and transact in the coming years.

1) Websites

At the turn of the century, there were a mere 20 million web domains registered globally. Today, the number of websites online is close to 1 billion. Most companies, personalities, associations (and even the odd pet) have their own website. As early sites offered little in the way of two-way communication, the only feasible option to stay up to date with new content was to subscribe to RSS (remember that?!), or literally punch the domain into your browser on a weekly basis.

2) Search Engines

The challenge with having a huge number of websites living online was the simple mechanism to index, categorise and display appropriate websites for a given search query. Remember Excite or Magellan? Probably not – because Google and Yahoo clouded them out. The race was on to make the first page of a search engine’s results.

3) Search Engine Optimisation

In the absence of other feasible ways to discover the incredible websites that had been crafted for the web, the SEO industry was born. Link farms, backlinks and finger-pointing at competing SEO companies through site audits created the market for coders to adhere to search engine friendly meta data.

4)Paid Search

Who better to come up with a solution to the SEO campaign manager’s nightmare than the search engines giants themselves? Microsoft, Yahoo and Google offer comprehensive paid advertising options on their search engines, but also on affiliate websites, display networks and subsidiary companies. Bidding on keywords for industries like insurance, banking and motoring, have driven specialisation of campaign media managers to extraordinary heights.

5)Social

Whether the social web came about to solve the internet’s riddle of being able to discover newsworthy content in real time, or simply to interact with others, is unclear. Social status updates, links to valuable places on the web and two-way communication with brands and people were previously out of reach, but are now within everyone’s reach (like replacing fan mail with tweets directly to @KatyPerry).

6)Content Marketing

Staying relevant to a target audience means drumming up interest in the brand, industry or its people by sharing great content. Think about how Red Bull content doesn’t expose their product, but inspires a certain lifestyle. That’s great content marketing. Brands drive conversions after the fact by using remarketing banners to target their audience – ultimately not just selling goods on an Ecommerce site – but selling eyeballs too.

7)Influencer Marketing

Using celebrities to endorse products is a staple in Marketing 101. Access to online audiences amassed by the celebrities makes influencer marketing more tangible and feasible for brands to do. From an SEO point of view, having hundreds of credible inbound links from the influencers’ websites to the digital point of sale, and creating the “earned” media component of the Earned, Owned & Paid trifecta makes perfect sense.

The Internet touches billions of people on a daily basis. As this number grows, so too will the ubiquitous role that it plays in the connectedness of everything. Wearable technology, the internet of things, big data and possibly even a move away from email (and cat videos) could be future chapters of this story we’re lucky to be experiencing in our lifetime.

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