Development

A brief history of the web, through the lens of BBI’s dev team

01.06.2018

Posted by Jamie Watterson

Some might prefer to leave the skeletons of the past buried, left to the dark recesses of shutdown server space. Fortunately for us, websites such as the Way Back Machine ensure our shame and glory live on in perpetuity, for all to enjoy.

With a diverse dev team at BBI, our first individual websites were built over a time period spanning nearly two decades. Some starting only a handful of years after the internet saw its first dawn, some starting as recently as 2017.

2017 – The future

We start our showcase with our newest talent. Built by our development apprentice, who created his first site as a space to practice his ever-burgeoning skills. Edd’s first site involved animation, responsive design, and super sharp typography.Edd-Smith-1

http://www.eddsmith.com 2017. Shiny.

2009 – The F stands for ‘fun’

Next, we have my first entry and I’m sure any other developers reading this will be able to relate to it. You might remember the days when viewing a website meant continuously needing to download the latest media player. Although Flash had its place, the over and often mis-use of this software resulted in some true abominations. The advent of mobile technologies and the banning of Flash platform from iOS devices has meant a gradual phasing out of this technology, but we built a number of Flash based sites over the years before moving to more current technologies.C21

Circa 2010. The F stands for ‘fun’.

Flash did have its place though, and it certainly made websites more fun. It offered a great deal more flexibility and interactivity, and its animation capabilities were such that it has been used to animate cartoons on TV. A well-designed Flash site was a treat… so long as you had the latest media player installed.

Do you remember when Flash was the bees knees? Yeah, I don’t like to, either.

2003 – 2005 – Remember dial-up?

On to some great showcases from the early 2000s and examples from our very own Senior Developer, Dave Barnes, Head of Creative Technology at Trunk, Nathan Broadbent and Senior Front-End Developer, Vin McAulay. This was when tables still predominated the mark up of most webpages. Want a box with curved edges? You’ll need an image for that. Links with fancy text? Image. This made for some nice designs and increased user interactivity but had to be balanced with the fact that many of your visitors were still stuck on dial-up and might be up half the night trying to download a single picture.

One of Dave’s first forays into development (via Way Back Machine)

2003 - 2004. NathanBroadbent.com (via Way Back Machine)

Vin adding some celebrity to proceedings (http://shanemeadows.co.uk/).

Though these websites might be lacking the bells and whistles we see today, they are clean and easy to navigate; something modern day websites often neglect in their bid to outdo one another in fanciness. We like fancy here at BBI, but the site should also actually work.

PHP has prevailed as one of the technologies we have consistently used over the years, and still sees a place today in mammoths such as Wordpress and Facebook. When comparing it to front end technologies and general web design, it hasn’t seen quite the same growth, but the introduction of things like oAuth and Decoupled CMS have kept developers on their toes.

1999 – 2001 – The Geocities days

In contrast, my first experience with building a webpage involved this:

Geocities circa 2000. Did anyone else just shudder?

Geocities was one of the first page builders, allowing one and all to create and publish a personal webpage to the internet. It was also responsible for some of the most eye-gouging creations known to the interwebs. Geocities might be dead now, but its memory lives on, and you can still get the full Geocities experience at sites like this:

https://www.codeschool.com/geocities – The web was not very safe for those sensitive to flashing images, back in the day.

Building sites in those days was less about good design, and more about how cool it was that you now had the ability to publish content. Whether that was information on a subject that you liked, or a personal site that was visited by one other person (that person was your mum). Even though slightly more sophisticated page builders like Dreamweaver were released shortly after, I quickly realised their limitations and learned to code as a way to build sites that were more personalised and – I like to think – slightly less eye gouging-y.

Watterson’s Final thought

When we look back, before pre-processors and NPM came into play, it’s easy to feel that web developers these days have comparatively more technologies to traverse, obstacles to overcome, and SEO to execute to construct a single microsite. However, learning resources have also grown apace and we can replace thick tomes of technical jargon, with interactive and easy to follow learning experiences. Sites like Codeacademy and Flexbox Froggy http://flexboxfroggy.com/, that improve the learning experience, even while the things you have to learn grow day by day.

This increase in technology and web standards has also given rise to the specialist. Designers, front-end developers, back-end developers, search, branding, PR, copywriting; all have become integral parts of a well thought out, well-made website that yields results. It is more important than ever to have a good team, with people of differing abilities coming together to bring the best experience possible to both the user and the client.

 

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