History url prefix icon Information Security History: A Virtual Overview

Users and Technologies in the Open Web

The World-Wide Web grew quickly starting in the early 1990s, based on researchers' development of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the Mosaic graphical web browser (1993). The Web's availability drove popular demand for access beyond closed services. Businesses rushed to build web sites and establish their Internet presence to avoid being overtaken by competitors. More office workers began using computers on an everyday basis, and the numbers of home users grew. Computer literacy and access became popular concerns, as traffic grew on the "Information Superhighway".

Early in the era, desktop PCs were the primary platforms through which users gained access to Internet services. Sometimes, whole families would share a single PC and its modem connection. Subsequently, laptops became increasingly powerful and popular, giving users mobility and convenience when they travelled, commuted, or decided that it was worth the effort of carrying a machine in order to perform some activity. Still, however, access to a computer and the Internet was ordinarily occasional, selective, or frequent, but not continuous.

Key Technologies

Desktops and Laptops

Microsoft's Windows 95 introduced support for the Internet Protocol (IP) as a standard feature, supplanting the need to use add-on network stack components to enable Internet connectivity. Windows-based PCs, in fixed and transportable configurations, were the most common Internet access platforms during this period. "Browser wars" during the 1990s between versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Communications' Navigator introduced new features while creating compatibility challenges for site designers.

Wired and WiFi Networks

Most homes first joined the Internet through dial-up modems connected or built into individual computers, requiring use of a phone line while the connection was active. Service providers often charged their customers based on the length of time a user was connected. Faster, "always-on" connectivity first became common within business offices. Later, cable and DSL technologies made it practical and economic to provide high-speed connections to homes, and WiFi made it simple to share those connections within home networks without costly rewiring.

Web sites

Typical web sites provided vistors with means to view content posted by site providers or to order products from them. As most users migrated from slow dial-up speeds to faster connections, content and site interaction became richer, more powerful, and more attractive and engaging.
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