The History of Website Development

What is Web Development?

Web development is an umbrella term for the various tasks that are involved in preparing a website for use on the internet, or on a private network. Web development can involve tasks of varying difficulty, ranging fro

Collectively, web development includes things like web design, web content creation, client-side and server-side scripting, web server installation and maintenance, e-commerce set up and development, and client relations. In industry circles, web development is generally used to refer to the aspects of building a website that do not involve design elements, i.e. writing markup and creating code or scripts.

Businesses of all sizes often utilize web development professionals – larger businesses may have in-house teams with hundreds of members, while smaller businesses may have one or two in-house developers, or work on contract with a remote web developer. Occasionally a web designer may work as a web developer as well, or web development may fall to a business’ information technician. In this way, web development could become a collaborative effort between multiple people, or the work of a single person of multiple disciplines.

Although the history of website development is fairly short in the grand scheme of things, the field has changed dramatically over the course of its history. It seems like new mobile devices and website innovations appear every day now, but just a few of decades ago, the concept of a website was still a revolutionary new idea.

Early Stages

Although the internet was officially born in 1969, there were no websites until the 80’s. By 1989, the world’s first websites began to take shape. CERN is credited with developing the idea of the web and starting initial development of their website in 1989, although the site didn’t go live until August of 1991.

It didn’t take long for several major players to appear on the scene. For instance, Yahoo, Netscape, and Amazon all went live in 1994, although Yahoo was originally known as “David’s and Jerry’s Guide to the Worldwide Web.” By 1997, over a million websites were live and Google debuted the next year as a search engine and index.

The Web Development Industry

Web development has been growing as an industry ever since it became obvious that the web could be commercialized. Credit for this growth goes to the many businesses seeking to sell their products and services online.

Another contributing factor to the expansion of the web development industry is the introduction of WYSIWYG (what you see is that you get) web development software such as Adobe Dreamweaver, and browser-based web building applications like Wix. Using these tools, even the least technically-inclined person can create and publish their own website without needing to master HTML, CSS, or any of the other primary web development coding languages. Some knowledge may be required, but it is minimal and easily picked up with the help of tutorial, in-person training, and teaching aids such as books and audio presentations, and in-software assistance / prompts.

Because so many new tools and technologies have been created and developed, web developers can now create even more dynamic and interactive websites. What was previously only available as an application on a desktop computer can now be presented and interacted with in an online environment via a web server. Users can now create content right from their browser and distribute this content across the web in just a few clicks. This has had tremendous impact on the global economy as individuals can now work remotely from almost anywhere in the world.

An example of the dramatic ways that web development has changed the face of communications and commerce is the creation and growth of e-commerce. Today, websites like eBay and Amazon have changed the way that consumers find and purchase goods and services – bargain hunting has never been easier! Another example is the rapid growth of blogging and personal web development. CMS (content management systems) such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal have made it possible to create blogs, websites, and much more, all from within a single dashboard interface.

Web development has also changed the face of the web by introducing users to personal networking and internet marketing. A website is no longer simply a tool for selling something, it can now be seen as an interactive brochure / representative for a business, and a more general communication tool. Social networking has also emerged in the form of websites like Facebook and Twitter, giving people new ways to communicate with one another, and giving businesses new ways to reach out to and engage with their consumer bases.

The Dot-Com Boom

Website development began to transform in 2000 when PHP 4.0 was released. Although PHP had been providing web developers with website tools since 1995, this update included the first purpose-built language for websites. Although website development still had a long way to go, this technology began to pave the way for developers to enjoy more freedom in creating their sites.

The year 2000 was also the peak of the dot-com boom, during which time, myriads of business transactions were conducted online. This frenzy of activity reflected the fact that businesses began to ignore the basic principles of business and built their companies on shaky principles. It didn’t take long for the dot-com boom to bust as strong business principles came back into play.

Despite the dot-com bust, website development continued to grow. For example, Drupal 1.0 was introduced in 2001 in order to allow web developers to set up certain types of websites, such as a portal site or a new-driven community site. Drupal would go on to release many updated versions of the software in order to better facilitate website creation.

Going Wireless

In 2002, Wi-Fi began to grow more popular and became pervasive. Wi-Fi seems entirely normal to us today, but the concept of a simple wireless connection was completely groundbreaking at the time. It was seen as somewhat of a threat to phone companies, but the increasing importance of Wi-Fi only underscored the fact that websites were now an integral part of everyday life for many people.

The Web 2.0 Revolution

Website development experienced a radical shift in 2004 when the concept of Web 2.0 became a mainstream idea. The term “Web 2.0” refers to sites that began shifting away from the static website technology of early sites. With “Web 2.0” sites, users are able to interact with each other through the virtual community that is created by sites like social networks.

Along with this new concept came a drive to acquire tools that allowed companies to manage their own sites. For website development, this trend was crucial, as it marked a movement towards greater development freedom. By 2007, local development tools such as MAMP began to appear, which meant that developers no longer had to rely on managing servers.

The Genesis of Cloud Computing

In 2009, cloud computing began to change the face of the internet. Building on the concepts introduced by Web 2.0, cloud computing allowed website developers to enjoy greater flexibility. Essentially, cloud computing is all about improving user experience and making websites easier to consume, so website developers are able to use cloud computing to enhance the effectiveness of their sites.

Pantheon’s release in 2012 ushered a huge change for cloud computing. With almost limitless access to cloud computing at incredibly low costs, Pantheon allowed web developers to take advantage of different types of clouds that were highly scalable. In addition, Pantheon introduced an improved approach to security in relation to cloud computing.

Website Builder Software

By the time of the dot-com boom, the concept of website development had experienced tremendous growth and change. Dreamweaver established itself as the leader in the market of website building software by 1998. Although Dreamweaver was highly successful for its time, its reliance on WYSIWYG editing principle caused it to fall behind when the industry began to focus on World Wide Web Consortium Standards.

Amaya became the industry standard as Dreamweaver lost its popularity. This open source tool allowed web developers to use a variety of technologies in one place. With support for XHTML, XML, SVG, and MathML, Amaya allowed developers to explore a variety of techniques.

Online website developers were the next step towards modern website development technology. Even though the first attempts were full of glitches, the industry has now developed into a thriving niche market with lots of competition. The plethora of options encourages software developers to continue searching for innovative new ways to improve their tools.

The Effect of Mobile

Although many of the developments throughout the history of website development have been focused on improving the developer’s ability to create more elaborate sites, the growth of mobile has forced developers to produce streamlined, mobile-friendly sites. Since mobile users are looking for speed and convenience, website developers must now find ways to simplify even the most complex sites in order to adapt to mobile devices. The navigation has to be simpler, content has to be pared down, and many Flash elements must be entirely eliminated.

The Current State of Website Development

Today, there are over 200 million websites that are live on the internet, and that number continues to grow every day. The concept of using a “dev, test, live” system is now standard for website developers who want to release a high quality site. In 2013, Pantheon launched Multidev Cloud Development Environments, which offer developers even more room to explore their options in relation to local development without dealing with incredibly complex technology.

Website developers are currently in the process of finding new ways to deal with the pressures and expectation created by social media and mobile. From a new focus on simplicity to an interest in storytelling elements, web developers are in an age of immense creativity.

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One Response to "The History of Website Development"

John Harris
Nov 28, 2013 07:24 AM

Since the web became commercialized in the mid 90's, web development as an industry has grown immensely. Businesses of every type wishing to sell products and services to customers were and continue to be the driving force behind this growth.

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