The Web at 25: A Look at Hosting Through the Years


This week the internet turned a quarter-century old. In these 25 years, it has gone from a fringe interest to something largely inseparable from our everyday life.

The Birth of the Internet

The internet, of course, has its roots in ARPANET, which helped connect researchers across different locations and work out some of the underlying technologies and protocols.

But March 12, 1989, known as the internet’s birthday, is the date on which CERN computer programmer Sir Tim Berners-Lee published a proposal concerning “the management of general information about accelerators and experiments at CERN.” He proposed “hypertext” as a way of keeping track of large amounts of information and making it easier to assess and navigate using links.

It wasn’t, however, until around 1993 when the internet started to take off. In that year, CERN declared that World Wide Web technology would be royalty-free available to anyone. There were 130 websites in existence that this point, but it would grow to over a million by 1997.

Web Hosting and the Internet

Many telecom providers such as AT&T saw an opportunity to provide web hosting, and were some of the earliest web hosts. Web hosts that are still around today also got their start in the 90s, such as Bluehost which began in 1996.

Many people had their first experiences with running a website through free services like GeoCities, which began in 1994 and was bought by Yahoo in 1999. By the time that GeoCities shut down in 2009, there were at least 900GB of website content to save.

The Dotcom Bubble

Speculation over the internet’s possibilities to drive new profits reached fever pitch by the late 90s, causing a dotcom bubble in which the value of internet companies was over-inflated. This dotcom bubble burst between 1999 and 2001, leading (at least some) tech companies to be more realistic about profits, and investors to pay more attention to company fundamentals.

In the following years, developments in the hosting industry have helped make it easier for companies and individuals to launch web applications at larger scale and for less money than before. A obvious major innovation over the past years has been cloud computing which has helped pool server resources to provide more efficient, scalable, and cost-effective computing.

The Internet Still Has Growing Up to Do

In reflecting on the current state of the internet, Berners-Lee notes that the internet is far from perfect. Around 60 percent of the planet isn’t connected to the web; there are disagreements around the collection and use of personal data; and proprietary technology and architecture could be closing technological possibilities. These are just some of the problems that the maturing internet is facing, and ones that web hosts are very much involved in.

Still, the Berners-Lee’s idea and the people who are helped make it a (virtual) reality should be congratulated for their work in fostering a creative and exciting digital landscape – and one that has made an innovative hosting industry possible.

It’s not often that in an industry obsessed with “the next big thing” that we have an opportunity to look back on the history that has come before. Were you around for the key milestones in the internet’s history? Please share your memories in the comments!

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  1. Hey David, Nice post. I think it's always important to look back at where we came from to see where we should be going. It's also amazing how much things have changed in only a quarter century. Anyways, I thought my readers would enjoy this, so I included your post in my roundup of the best recent Open Source/Linux and web hosting content. Appreciate the nice work. Thanks. Matt

  2. What a difference the years have made! I can remember the first time I signed online in 1993, and spent hours slowly prowling around Prodigy-Net via my 2400 baud modem and my lightning fast 486 66mhz computer with a 14" screen and 32mb of ram! LOL In 1997 I started my own business including a small Hosting company and Design Consulting... It's been quite a trip!

  3. Profithost

    Clouds made an end to many small providers and to privacy

  4. What a lovely recap of the history of internet. Internet has come through leaps and bounds and as you pointed out, it still has a lot of growing to do. I believe that so long as it remains free and uncensored, the sky is it's limit and only the surface has been scratched.