IN SCHOOL

Where did the boom come from?

The 2011 infographic which shows the mind-boggling activity which takes place in one minute on the Internet.Photo: Intel Free Press/Wikimedia Commons

The 2011 infographic which shows the mind-boggling activity which takes place in one minute on the Internet.Photo: Intel Free Press/Wikimedia Commons  

A.S.Ganesh

In December 2011, Intel Free Press came up with this infographic titled “What Happens in an Internet Minute?” that outlined the volume of data handled in the internet every minute along with the split of how some of the most popular websites and applications stacked up during this duration. Adding that the future growth is staggering, the graphic tried to represent the overwhelming threat that the data usage corresponded to and the network infrastructure that would be necessary to accommodate the same.

Today, we live in an hyper-connected world where almost every living minute doesn’t pass without the use of the internet. We are aware that there are pockets in India and across the globe that don’t know what the internet is, let alone access the same, but we remain rooted to our own webs. One thing is for certain though, more and more people are getting on the internet bandwagon with every passing day

And yet, not so long ago, about 20 years to be particular, the general public were still striving to find a way to be on the internet. Yes, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) had already developed and implemented the World Wide Web. And yes, even though data connectivity was cumbersome, it was still possible. But the network-based hypertext system was patronised mainly by techie geeks and for the bulk of the public, the web remained a mystery.

So what was the spark that snowballed into increased data usage? What happened that changed the way people accessed the internet? The answer to these questions came from National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Back in the early 1990s, the web pages resembled lengthy text documents with the multimedia, including pictures, audio and video clips, hidden behind links. A team from NCSA decided that they could definitely enhance this experience, making it more interactive and user-friendly by building a new browser.

Following a number of iterations in which the team worked on the design and the interface, the NCSA Mosaic was finally released on April 22, 1993. By bringing in colour and creativity, the Mosaic displayed pictures and text together on the same window, transforming the web into a visually stimulating medium.

Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina designed Mosaic as a free software available only on Unix. Their browser not only handled multimedia, but made links blue and underlined (thereby prominent) and a button was provided to move backwards to the pages already browsed.

Mosaic’s Unix version was successful in universities and institutions, prompting Windows and Mac versions to be made available by the end of 1993. Released under a noncommercial software license, making it freely downloadable, with a simple installer, Mosaic enabled people to experience the web like never before.

Andreessen left NCSA and founded Mosaic Communications, which was later renamed Netscape Communications. Their Netscape Navigator browser was soon the best in the business, but before long Microsoft’s Internet Explorer took the throne. Netscape became Mozilla without any luck and a decade after Mosaic, it found life in the form of Firefox

Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari along with Internet Explorer and Firefox account for almost all the browsing these days. Mosaic’s influence, however, is still seen in each one of these.

ganesh.a.s@thehindu.co.in

Recommended for you