The Web's Silver Jubilee

by John Graham-Cumming.

No matter what your age, it's hard to believe that the World-Wide Web is 25 today. For the young the web has always been part of their lives, for the older it seems like it was invented only yesterday. But, in truth, the World-Wide Web sprang into life in the form of a document circulated at CERN entitled Information Management: A Proposal in March 1989.

The document contains a simple diagram proposing that "browsers" on heterogenous machine types would be able to access Hypertext Servers to view information.


In one of the great understatements of computing history, Tim Berners-Lee, the author of the proposal, wrote a parenthetical comment that allowing heterogenous machine types to access these proposed Hypertext Servers would be "a boon for the world in general".

The most visible part of the explosion of the World-Wide Web is that we are all using it every day. But we don't often stop to think about the technical changes that underlie the web browsers that we use. Part of CloudFlare's work is to stay on top of the web as it changes so that everyone with a web server has the latest technology.

Here's a brief timeline of significant changes in web technology.

March 12, 1989: Tim Berners-Lee outlines the web in "Information Management: A Proposal"

Christmas Day, 1990: Berners-Lee releases the first version of his WorldWideWeb web browser.


1991: the first HTTP standard HTTP/0.9 is written up. It reflects that state of HTTP as implemented by early web browsers.

March 9, 1992: The ViolaWWW browser is released. It remains popular until Mosaic is released.


July 1992: Port 80 is assigned for the HTTP protocol in RFC 1340.

November 3, 1992: Internal CERN document entitled HTML Tags is first HTML specification of any kind.

January 23, 1993: The Mosaic web browser is released and becomes very popular.

February 25, 1993: Marc Andreessen proposes that the web should have an <img> tag so that images could be displayed in a browser along with text.


1994: The first mobile web browser, PocketWeb for the Apple Newton, is released.


February 1995: Netscape introduced SSL for secure HTTP connections.


September 1995: Netscape introduces JavaScript.

November 24, 1995: HTML 2.0 is described in RFC 1866.

1996: Macromedia introduces Flash. It becomes Adobe Flash in 2005.


May 1996: The specification for HTTP/1.0 is released as RFC 1945.

November 1996: SSL 3.0 is released (it is described in RFC 6101). The W3C issues a Working Draft describing XML.

December 17, 1996: CSS Level 1 is published as a recommendation by the W3C.

January 1997: The specification for HTTP/1.1 is released as RFC 2068. The W3C releases a draft specification for HTML 3.2.

December 18, 1997: The specification for HTML 4.0 is released.

1998: Microsoft introduces XMLHTTP as part of work being done on Outlook Web Access. XMLHTTP later became XMLHTTPRequest and helped kick off Web 2.0.


May 12, 1998: W3C publishes a specification for CSS Level 2.

December 1998: IPv6 is written up in RFC 2460. The specification of HTML 4.01 is released.

January 1999: TLS 1.0 is described in RFC 2246. It is destined to replace SSL.

December 2000: Mozilla introduces support for XMLHTTPRequest in Gecko 0.6.

February 2004: Apple adds support for XMLHTTPRequest to Safari 1.2.

February 18, 2005: The term AJAX is used to describe dynamic web sites using XMLHTTPRequest and JavaScript.

April 2006: TLS 1.1 is described in RFC 4346. The W3C releases a Working Draft describing XMLHTTPRequest.

October 2006: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 supports XMLHTTPRequest.

January 2008: First draft version of HTML 5 is released.

August 2008: TLS 1.2 is described in RFC 5246.

April 12, 2011: CSS Level 2.1 becomes a W3C Proposed Recommendation.

November 2011: SPDY is introduced by Google.

December 2011: RFC 6455 describes WebSockets.

February 2012: SPDY Version 3 is described an Internet Draft.

November 2013: SPDY Version 3.1 is specified. Work on SPDY continues as part of HTTP/2.0.

And so the web continues to evolve. New specifications and new protocols are tested and defined. HTML5 is an ongoing effort, as is CSS Level 3. Google recently began experimenting with a new web protocol called QUIC.

CloudFlare helps customers stay on top of the ever changing web with features like automatic IPv6, support for SPDY/3.1, and complete support for TLS.

25 years on the web is still growing, evolving and changing. Here's to 25 more years!

PS If reading that list of changes wasn't enough nostalgia for you... visit the web page that got it all started.

When Tim Berners-Lee wrote the original proposal he sent it to his boss. His boss wrote on the top of it Vague but exciting.... It did turn out to be the latter!

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