There’s a saying in French which goes “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” which translates as the more things change, the more they stay the same. Maybe the same could be said to apply to today’s World Wide Web … “plus les changements web, plus le web reste le même”, the more the Web changes, the more the Web stays the same, with blame firmly put at Google Translate if this doesn’t translate properly.
Take a look at this screen-shot of Tim Berners-Lee’s original World Wide Web browser, circa 1990, running on a NeXT system for an illustration of what I mean.
While Berners-Lee’s original vision of the Web browser as an editor, with the web as as collaborative and interactive medium didn’t survive per se, the basic principle survives in the form of today’s blogs and wikis. While NeXT folded as a hardware company in 1993, NeXT’s NeXTstep and OpenStep development environments survive today under the hood of Apple’s OS X operating system … and the principle of overlapping windows, icons and menus are immediately familiar from today’s graphical computing environments.
But for me, perhaps the nicest and most familiar part of the screen-shot is the Web mapping example, showing CERN’s location in Geneva. Even at the birth of the Web, maps were important and are still the most immediate and widely spread use of geographical data visualisation we have today. With the pace of today’s technological progress, who knows how the Web will appear 20 years hence, but I’d be willing to hazard a bet that despite recent protestations over the death of the map, maps will be as integral a part of the Web experience as it was back when the Web was born.