January 17, 2011
The Internet was started more than 40 years ago.
I find it useful to divide the history of the Internet into roughly three distinct periods:
Internet 1.0 1969-1994
This was the period when the Internet mostly used by people in very large organizations. In the 1980’s, I was doing consulting work for meteorologists (using ParcPlace Smalltalk) who had access to a Cray supercomputer connected to the Internet (IIRC, it was referred to as ArpaNet at the time). We used utilities such as FTP, Telnet, and Mail. The user interface was the Unix command line.
Internet 2.0 1995-2006
Tim Berners-Lee first proposed the World Wide Web in 1989 which laid the foundations for the HTML (HyperText Markup Language), DNS (Domain Name Server), and URL (Uniform Resource Locator) standards that we use today. It seems that 1995 was the year that the Internet really entered the public consciousness with the launch of Netscape Navigator and the introduction of the (Internet capable) Java programming language.
The World Wide Web made it easy for non-technical users to navigate the Internet using browsers. And HTML made it possible for semi-technical people to create Web content.
Aspects of Internet 1.0 didn’t disappear, of course – things like FTP and Telnet were still widely used. W3 was layered on top of the existing infrastructure.
The period after 1995 was marked by a huge increase in the popularity of dynamic languages to build Web sites. Some languages had been around for a time (Perl) and some totally new ones were invented specifically for HTML (PHP). New technology led to several new companies being created (eg Google).
Internet 3.0 2007 –
IMHO, we are at the beginning of another major change in the way we use the Internet. I set 2007 as the start of this period because that is when the iPhone was first introduced.
This new period is characterized by a highly interactive, programmed user interface. With HTML web pages displayed in a browser, the page structure and interactions are determined on the server side.
But with programs running in the client device, the user experience and interaction is determined by the program and the server becomes mainly an interface to a database.
This change in the user interface is occurring across the spectrum:
— the Silverlight ecosystem of tools and libraries
— Adobe Flex tools and libraries
— Android phones and tablets
— Apple’s iPhone and iPad
— other devices such as Amazon’s Kindle
— online games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest
The World Wide Web will still be used for decades to come.
But it is apparent that we are at the start of a much more dynamic way of connecting through the Internet. And most of the new devices using these technologies will be lightweight, portable and wireless.
Which brings me inevitably to Smalltalk.
Smalltalk was designed to be simple, lightweight, and to use a very intuitive messaging protocol. Which makes it the perfect language for the age of Internet 3.0.