This month was a big one for the tech world, which usually doesn't need much of an excuse for a party. But this time, the reason is it's exactly 25 years since the first seeds of the technology we use every day were sown, with the creation of the world wide web. It was on March 12th, 1989, that a computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee working at CERN in Switzerland first presented a paper that outlined the technologies that would change the world.
Now the candles have been blown out, it seems like the ideal time to sit back and reflect on just what a seismic shift this was, as it's hard to overstate just what a big impact this would have on the world over the next two-and-a-half decades. The ability to connect and find information is now so ingrained in our society we don't even notice it – just ask the US TV broadcasters covering the 2012 London Olympics who, when Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim) appeared at the opening ceremony, advised any viewers who didn't know who he was to "Google him". Apparently they failed to spot the irony that without him, there wouldn't even be a Google.
A tech revolution
In the last few years, use of the web has exploded beyond everyone's wildest dreams. It's predicted by Cisco that by 2017, there will be 3.6 billion internet users – coming up on half the planet. Facebook alone has over a billion account-holders and is still growing, despite what some doom-mongers say. And the web has proved a lot of people wrong in the process. One particularly infamous critique of the idea, published by Newsweek in 1995, famously declared the "big ocean of unedited data" would never catch on.
It went on to claim no-one would buy anything over the internet because of a lack of human contact and stated: "No online database will replace your daily newspaper". But the rest, as they say, is history. We all know how that particular prediction turned out – and just to rub it in, this less-than prescient article is now still available to read, you guessed it, on the we.
The rise of mobile
These days, the web isn't about PCs and keyboards – its something that everyone takes with them everywhere they go, in their pocket handbag, in the form of a smartphone. In fact, mobile is changing the face of the way we interact with the world through the website and for many people, portable gadgets will be their primary means of accessing the web.
But despite the recent explosion, the idea of using phones to access the internet is an idea almost as old as the web itself. As early as 1996, devices were being offered that could get online. Sure, they were slow and clunky and you'd aged visibly by the time anything loaded, but every revolution has to start somewhere. And by the turn of the century, technologies like WAP and internet-connected PDAs were already setting the scene for the days to come.
While BlackBerry made headway in the middle part of the last decade with its email-friendly devices beloved of business executives, it took the launch of the iPhone in 2007 to really show what was possible. Suddenly, large touchscreens and app-based operating systems opened up the floodgates and made it easy for anyone to get online – and the world got just that little bit smaller again.
Data, data everywhere
The numbers involved in the mobile internet are simply staggering. Cisco predicted that between 2013 and 2018, mobile data will grow 11-fold- with 190 exabytes of data transferred by the end of this period. It might sound it, but that's not just a made-up number – an exabyte is equal to a billion gigabytes.
This might be a lot to get your head around, but it's 190 times higher than all internet traffic generated in 2000 or, in real terms, the equivalent of 42 trillion images or four trillion average YouTube clips – that's a lot of videos of cats and pictures of people's lunch.
Some people refers to this as the era of 'big data' – and what it means for us is that companies now know more about their customers than ever, so can tailor messages based on their location or even predict the journeys a person might take on any given day. Expect newspaper headlines inviting comparisons with Minority Report to only increase in the coming years.
Naturally, this raises concerns over privacy, which is why Sir Tim used the 25th anniversary of his creation to call for a new 'digital Magna Carta' to safeguard people's rights when they go online.
"It's time for us to make a big communal decision. In front of us are two roads – which way are we going to go?" he told BBC Breakfast. "Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control – more and more surveillance?
"Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?"