30 years of the website: meeting the demands of the future
This is the first in a four-part series of posts that honor the 30th anniversary of the website, as well as examine how we expect web infrastructure and user experiences to evolve in the next 30 years.
1991 was a watershed year with repercussions we still feel today: Operation Desert Storm began the end of the first Gulf War, a band from Seattle called Nirvana hit it big and changed the music landscape, the Cold War officially came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and Tim Berners-Lee launched the world’s first website.
Who knew what started so simply would grow to be such a huge part of our everyday lives? The World Wide Web has grown to 1.8 billion sites that deliver information and entertainment, allow people to purchase almost anything (and often have it delivered within a day), host debates on every topic imaginable, and much more.
As we look back to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the website, it’s also worth thinking about the next 30 years. There are a couple of areas where we — as engineers, developers, and builders in general — can champion innovation, mainly around architecture and security.
A flexible, resilient architecture and secure digital experiences
In the last 30 years, we’ve made advances in security standardization and computing, but we still have more work to do in ensuring that the software supply chain is secure, that security is baked into the overall development process, and that we’re working with more memory-safe languages like Rust. And there are a lot of countries that must catch up with years-old standards before they can think about what comes next.
The fact that the web continues to function and is as stable as it is remains a credit to its inherent flexibility, and to those people who work to ensure that we can quickly and efficiently get almost anywhere online in a matter of seconds. But we must move beyond “early days of the internet” thinking, when no one knew how big the web would be and what we would need it to do. The next 30 years will usher in even more change that we can’t foresee. Embracing new approaches to development and security will help us create a web that is resilient and secure enough to meet not only today’s standards, but also tomorrow’s.
Fast evolution is necessary if we expect the internet to meet our needs in the coming years. We need more robust architecture that can help builders develop products and experiences that are inherently secure, wildly performant, and easy for businesses to adopt as their own. As an ecosystem, we must drive the web toward greater privacy, resilience, and performance, with security, control, and visibility as core tenets.
Continuously adapting to the needs of end users is, and will always be, a core property of the modern internet. And nothing is more front of mind for end users right now than privacy and security. However, many businesses simply tack security on as an afterthought and use legacy tools that can’t keep up with how modern applications are built. This leaves them vulnerable to threats and slows business down in the long run. As we look at the future of online experiences, companies that highlight how treating privacy and security as features (rather than afterthoughts) will build trust and win market share.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig deeper into how we should go about building the future web, and what we’ll need to get there. In the second of our four-post series, we’ll discuss some of the challenges above, and explore why and how we should be building websites like they are applications in order to create experiences that meet users’ evolving needs.
It’s up to all of us
There are challenges to overcome in order to see that the internet of tomorrow will support the consumer needs of the future — from those we know of to those we can’t yet imagine. That’s why Fastly engineers leverage, fix, and expand upon open standards to support both our own needs and the evolution of the internet. We’re also working to reduce attack surfaces and investing in open source technology like WebAssembly — and not just for the sake of our own products. We are one entity in a much larger ecosystem, and it’s up to all of us to ensure this ecosystem thrives for years to come.