The web has been around for 25 years now, which is really amazing when you think about it. I was in the Peace Corps when I first heard of the World Wide Web and I was one of like three volunteers who found a way to get email while we were there. I had to go to someone’s house and he’d sign into his account and then we could piggyback from there to an email account. By the time I was getting ready to leave (2 years later) the Peace Corps office was setting up email for all the volunteers, but we still didn’t have web access.
In 1995, I returned home and got a job at a local business–NETCOM. It turned out I was working for a company that gave people access to the internet, and I barely knew what that was. I was working as a phone technical support representative, and it was challenging to say the least. I put people on hold a lot as I asked questions and repeated what the customers on the phone were asking me. I’d say I’ve come a long way since then.
When I started working on the web, it was black and white (or green and black, on the terminal screen I used) and all text. I spent a lot of time doing things like cleaning up Gopher, chatting on IRC, and reading alt.netcom.sucks. None of these things were the web, but I used them a lot more than I used the web, because there really weren’t many pages out there. When Mosaic started being able to support images and NetCruiser was developed it was incredibly exciting for all of us in tech support. Although, honestly, NetCruiser was more like bad news for us in tech support. One of the common info files we used for answering customers was called sales.lied, which isn’t very reassuring, but was our only honest reply to some questions.
In 1995, my roommate and I would search akebono.stanford.edu to find interesting facts on the few websites that were out there, and then quiz each other. The goal was to find the weirdest fact of the day. What made me laugh was the day several years later when I won an internet trivia quiz for knowing that that URL was the original URL of Yahoo!. For fun we would flood internet polls nominating Ender’s Game as the best book of all time. I wrote a bot to vote for that book (yes, the book, not the movie) 100 times a minute until the website went down. At first I thought I’d broken the Internet!
Things are a lot easier now, but also a lot more corporate. I sometimes long for the crazy, heady days of the early web, but I think it’s grown up pretty well. Happy Birthday, WWW!