20 Years of Websites Evolution: Introduction

Introduction

We live inside one of the greatest revolution that ever existed – the digital revolution.

In today’s world, most of our business, communication, and education is done online. The internet also has a huge economic and political influence. Over 50% of the world population are using the internet, and most of them are active in social network sites.


Internet users, social media users and unique mobile users in 2017

In 2016, we devoted between 8 to 10 hours a day to screen time which will accumulate to more than 5 years during our lifetime (almost the same time we spend on watching TV).


Time Spent Online by Country 2017

As we spent more and more time on the internet it had become an important part of our life. We now depend on sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, eBay and PayPal to always be there and to always work, which make them become more than just websites – they become an integral part of our life, the foundation of our digital reality.

In fact, in the last 20 years, we as an industry, have been building what will later be called our “digital infrastructure”: the foundation of our digital reality for generations to come. Just like physical infrastructure, the digital infrastructure has buildings (websites) and roads (API) which connects the building together.
Similar to physical infrastructure, some buildings are small and some are skyscrapers, and learning to create bigger buildings (more complicated sites) required many technological advancement and time.
The same can be said about the roads which connect the buildings together – we started with narrow roads and primitive transportation vehicles, and as technology improved we learned to build bigger and better roads which could transport cargo with greater efficiency.

We are currently in midst of building our digital reality, and things are starting to get serious. The same design & build process which were good enough for creating small websites 20 years ago is not sufficient anymore. We need to develop new manufacturing technologies and start thinking in new ways if we want to build the next skyscraper websites. And we need to start treating this process more seriously. Just like buildings have regulations which make sure they are contracted properly and safe to use, so do websites today need more supervision and oversight in order to assure users security and privacy. This is the only way we can build sustainable cyber cities which we would feel safe to live in.

But in order to prepare our selves for the future so we can make the right choices, we first need to understand the present – what our current digital infrastructure looks like. And to fully understand what we currently have, we also need to understand why we have what we have – and learn about the forces which helped to shape our current technologies.

20 Years of Websites Evolution

Evolution describes the process of change as a struggle for existence. This definition can also be used for our modern-day technology: the products that we use today are the result of technological evolution, where not so useful products and features were replaced with better more suitable ones. And as the time moves on and our technology advances, the definition of what is relevant always keeps on changing, which means our products need to reinvent themselves all the time.

20 years ago, when I started developing websites, they were mostly used as online “contact card”. They were nice to have, but not a critical part of the business in any way. So when occasionally the site went down (because of site hosting issues of course, not bugs..) there was little effect on the customer’s business.

Today, however, this is not the case anymore. All companies in the world have an online presence, and most of them are starting to use the internet as their main place of doing business. Both the largest and smallest companies in the world rely on it. Whether it’s for customer sites, supplier sites, employee sites, or business-2-business communication, the internet has become the focal point of most of our lives and we can’t imagine living without it.

In order to be able to handle larger parts of the business, websites technology had to drastically evolve over the last 20 years. Instead of one person doing all the work, building modern web applications today require the combined effort of many people and involves different technologies that need to work together. Instead of one server with a couple of static HTML files – today site topology comprised of different servers with network appliances between them.
The complexity, time, effort and skills required for making modern web application all have greatly increasing in the last 2 decades to the point of no recognition, as we can see in the this website requirements diagram:

modern web apps requirement stack over 2 decades

In this series will dive into the evolution of websites over the last 20 years, and learn what it really means to build a modern website.

What do you think?