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6 August 2011

Happy birthday WWW

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

WWW is 20 years old today (Saturday 06 August 2011) to the day.

I was at university at the time and they weren't keen on giving us access, especially when I questioned it.  I was a journalism student. I had to ask some in the know people in the Adelhphi Building computer lab (and yes, they were kind of geeky) and asked my brother  who was just starting his computer science PhD at Nottingham university.  Needless to say, he was one of very few people on my email list and not many people seemed that interested outside of academia.
We poked about in communities and I remember a housemate going to my home city to visit someone he was chatting to in a community. It was quite different at that time and stupid upon reflection, but after all, it was 1992 and we were students.
Happy birthday WWW cake by Rachel Hawkes
I traded emails with my brother, because calling each other was out of the question, because this was free after all and with very little interest from peers there weren't many people to talk to. I don't remember the times of killer slow connections back then, only when we wanted the web to do more and it became more sophiscated. Then it was the painful roll-out times of broadband. I've become accustomed to quicker connections and haven't the patience waiting for pages to load, so I guess this is a sign of how things have changed for me. I have more of an appreciation of how difficult seemingly simple tasks are to do now, there being an expectation of everything should just work - and it should be free. It's a lot more complicated than it looks at times.  

Ruining myself with what little grant the government gave, graduating, looking for a job and then travelling meant that the WWW skipped me by for a while. That's until a marketing job in London 1997 called for expensive use of the internet. Ultimately, promoting stuff using it. That's where I learnt about communities, email marketing, online PR, early SEO and viral marketing (and they weren't called that back then).  

In a digital marketing sense, the real potential didn't arise for me until I worked at incubator Bain & Company and on a project rerferred to as a pure play online retail store.  It was really taking off and this WWW looked liked it was going places until an online marketing agncy and web analytics company I had moved to hit the dot com wall super hard. It was time to do something else and so I started Elemental and the web has been generally good to me. I'm still learning a lot in possibly the most competitive and vibrant time I've experienced.

On the journey what has the WWW brought to me?

Not so WWW good things for me then

  • The novelty of being exclusive wore of quickly when there weren't many people talk to, especially as my friends and peers weren't using it
  • The very funny executible files (exes) became riddled with virsuses
  • It could be painfully slow at times and expensive - I could only use it at work, waiting for pages for load wasn't fun at all
  • Computers were expensive, huge and really heavy. If the web was slow, screamingly loud PCs didn't help 

Good WWW things for me then

  • It was new exciting and not many people had access to it, and it was exclusive 
  • I didn't have to call or write to my brother in the early days saving myself cash
  • Exes were all the rage and were funny and welcomed me to some of my first virals
  • I got my first personal email address from Hotmail and the boss could read what I was sending to someone. I still use it, but not so much these days
  • Early communities even from portals like MSN and Yahoo! were great, so much fun  

Not so good WWW things for me now

  • Viruses are more clever and more people than ever before can create them
  • There is more web, so more rubbish, shifting through the fake stuff can take more time
  • Sharing is good, but for some the cracked fuelled habit has been taken to an exterme
  • Remaining anonymous seems like a thing of the past as privacy issues become more complex
  • It amazes me how many businesses and people think the web is totally free. Nothing is ever free
  • There are some very powerful organisations out there born from the web and any do great things. Some come with even greater egos an some of things they say and do at times is quite scary

Good WWW thingsfor me now

  • The mobile web in my hand still impresses me, as do some of the apps that are created for phones
  • The web is a lot quicker, I've still experienced times of painful broadband roll-outs, but generally for me, it's been a good experience
  • It may sound cheesy, but it brings peope together and VoIP and video calls with friends from all around the world is fantastic. It's the norm for newer generations, but you have to appreciate what it was like back then. Getting the web to developing countries is also a massive plus point for me
  • Working with the web daily, I'm quite lucky to do that for a day job and I haven't become bored with it yet 

So, what were you doing when the WWW officially started, how did you get hooked in and what are you doing with it now?

You can catch up and watch more of the WWW happy birthday report on BBC's iPlayer if you didn't see it. The iPlayer as been rolled out across 11 European countries thus far (more to come the Beeb reports), so some of you may be able to watch more on BBC Click at some point. 

Categories: Technology, Random

Tags: happy birthday, digital marketing, email marketing, online pr, seo, viral marketing, WWW, world wide web, Sir Tim Berners Lee

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