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Web 25

Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web


Edited By Niels Brügger

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Web. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Web has played an important role in the development of the Internet as well as in the development of most societies at large, from its early grey and blue webpages introducing the hyperlink for a wider public, to today’s multifacted uses of the Web as an integrated part of our daily lives.

This is the first book to look back at 25 years of Web evolution, and it tells some of the histories about how the Web was born and has developed. It takes the reader on an exciting time travel journey to learn more about the prehistory of the hyperlink, the birth of the Web, the spread of the early Web, and the Web’s introduction to the general public in mainstream media. Furthermore, case studies of blogs, literature, and traditional media going online are presented alongside methodological reflections on how the past Web can be studied, as well as accounts of how one of the most important source types of our time is provided, namely the archived Web.

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web is a must-read
for anyone interested in how our online present has been shaped by the past.

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Chapter One: Connecting textual segments: A brief history of the web hyperlink (Niels Brügger)


chapter one

Connecting textual segments

A brief history of the web hyperlink

Niels Brügger

Links are intrinsic to documents, and have been for millennia.

Ted Nelson (1992, pp. 2/23)

The hyperlink—a defining feature of the web

When looking back on the first 25 years of World Wide Web history, it is relevant to reflect on what has characterized the web during the entire period.1 The web has undergone a number of technological changes in terms of hardware and software, and these shifts have taken place in a close interplay with a great variety of emerging forms of use such as blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, and social media. However, a set of fundamental web features have transcended these changes, namely the technological system that enables the transfer of web files from one computer to another, and the format in which these files are written. The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the Uniform Resource Locator/Identifier (URL/URI), and the HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML) are the closest one gets to the bolts and nuts of the web. Although these features that enable the transfer, addressing, and writing/reading of web files have also developed during the last 25 years, they have been there as such all the time, in one form or another, thus enabling the web to run and develop ‘on top’ of the internet with its interconnected computer networks and protocols.

But from the very beginning,...

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