DanQingShanShui (483K)

Evolution of the World Wide Web

a historical view and analogical study


Yihong Ding
ding@cs.byu.edu

Li Xu
lxu@email.arizona.edu

First draft: January 12, 2007
Last update: April 1, 2007
(blog discussion)

Prelude

This article is about predicting future of the World Wide Web (WWW). Predicting future may sound like playing with tasseography or crystal ball. But there are better ways than these mysterious methods.

  1. "Study the past if you would define the future," by Confucius (Kung Fu-Tzu, 551 BC - 479 BC).
  2. "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," by Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962).
  3. "The best way to predict the future is to invent it," by Theodore Hook (1788 - 1841).

These three proverbs show a three-step process to predict future. By going over the past we obtain knowledge; by persisting on dreams we explore wisdom and hold on it; and by inventing we realize our dreams. Future is not in mystery for people who are willing to review, to dream, and to invent. Based on these three proverbs, we organize this article into three successive parts: past and present of WWW, the future, and inventing the dream.

Particularly, the authors are willing to contribute this article to the initiative of Web Science. The World Wide Web has evolved over a critical point. The initiative of Web Science declares the WWW research being a new branch of science, such as physics or chemistry. Web research is no longer a second-tier domain that belongs to the Computer Science. Although WWW was invented by computer scientists, its further evolution is a synthesis of various factors, most of which are beyond the realm of Computer Science, such as Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology.

As an aggregation of contributions from hundreds of millions of web users, WWW has become an evolutionary event beyond an intelligent product. Currently this evolution process is still on its early stages. WWW has just finished its first version transition from 1.0 to 2.0. And this evolution process continues. World Wide Web is a dream (very like an American Dream) from its beginning. Humans like it because WWW provides many normal people a nearly equal opportunity to realize their dreams, which are very hard (if ever possible) to be realized in their real lives. No matter it is opium or a savior of our real world, the World Wide Web has been launched and it keeps on going forward on its own orbit. Individuals cannot stop it, and individuals cannot alter its route since this route is an aggregation of all of us. But we can study this route, and by studying the route we may predict the next stop on web evolution. This is thus the goal of this article.

Acknowledgment