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Unraveling the web's story


Special Announcement Edition: The Web Turns 30 and Time for a Big Change

TL;DR I’m changing things up a bit. I’ll still be sharing history, but that history will look a bit different, and come to you little less frequently than every week. First one goes out next week. Also, a redesign!

Haven’t signed up yet? Now’s your chance:

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Thirty years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee handed his employers at CERN a document entitled “Information Management, A Proposal,” an outline for a networked, hypertext information system for sharing and exchanging documents. It would later be called the World Wide Web. It’s a staggering milestone given the amount that has changed in that time. For some of us, the web has been around for our entire professional lives. Yet in many ways, we’ve barely even begun.

This proposal is also where my timeline begins. I sent my first newsletter out a little over two years ago, a smaller entry about the endless renaming of the Mozilla browser. Since then, I’ve expanded my research quite a bit, added hundreds of entries to an ongoing timeline, sharing what I could along the way in small, bite-sized posts that took a slice of that history and told its story. I even published an ebook. The most incredible thing to me is to be part of the web at a time of great reflection by its creators, builders, and users. As the web enters its thirtieth year, our perspective is shifting as we see the impact it can have on the world, in positive and negative ways. I am hopeful that a new web will be born from this perspective, one that considers personal privacy, openness and the other founding ideals of the World Wide Web.

So first of all, thank you. Thank you for reading along. Thank you to those who just signed up last week, and especially to those who signed up years ago and have been along for the ride ever since.

I have no plans on stopping.

It does, however, feel like a good time for a change. Thus far, the stories I’ve plucked from the web’s past have been more or less at random. This was a product of my research process, which has found me digging in wherever I could and sharing whatever it was that I found. Two years of research (and truth be told, this process has been going on even longer than that) has led me to a clearer picture and a deeper understanding of the web’s trajectory.

It’s also been a lot. Writing something new each week can, at times, be a daunting task. Staring down that deadline means sometimes I finish a post before I feel fully finished. The truth is, the web absolutely and utterly fascinates me. Endlessly. I want my writing to reflect that.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going back to the beginning. Starting next week, I’ll be sharing a different kind of post. One that is longer, and spans a greater period of time than a single isolated moment. I will be sharing individual chapters from the web’s history, starting with its origin and moving through all of its multi-faceted transformations. I hope to ground this work in questions about where the web came from, what were its foundational ideals, who were the people that created it, and how did we get to where we are today.

I’ve written a few drafts in this new format, and I think their the best work I’ve done in a while. I’m excited to share them. But they are longer pieces, and they require more research, and more time to write.

So I won’t be publishing each week. In fact, I won’t have a regular publishing schedule. I expect that I’ll have a new one of these chapters done at least every couple of months, if not more frequently. But I’ll be publishing them as they’re ready.

Now, this isn’t the only kind of post I’ll be writing. I’ll also be filling in the gaps in between with the same stories you all know (and I hope love). Smaller entries with a tidbit or milestone plucked from the timeline, which I’ll still be adding too. There’s plenty more ideas for that and I want to continue to share those. But again, these won’t necessarily go out on a weekly or set schedule. Bottom line, I’m experimenting a bit.

My other big news: I’ve redesigned the site! I’ve gotten positive feedback on the last iteration, but the truth is, it was always meant to be a temporary design. The web’s grown up a bit, and there’s some really cool new CSS features I’ve been itching to try out. So I put them to work on the site, trying to maintain its simplicity while adding a bit of a unique style. You can even search the archives now, which is long overdue. If you have a minute, I’d love for you to pay it a visit. It’s a work in progress, so comments and feedback are welcome.

Over the next few months, I hope to share a some more experiments I’ve been trying out. A few weeks ago, I published my first ever guest post. It’s incredible to see a different perspective on history. It’s something I’d like to continue (incidentally, if you have a story to share, go ahead and respond to this post!). I have some more ideas in the works, so stay tuned for those.

For now, look to next week for the very first chapter in what I’m calling A Complete History. It’ll take a look at what makes the web the web.

Again, thank you to each and everyone that’s followed along. I’m excited to kick off this new phase.

All the best,
– Jay