Today, the world celebrates a major moment in the history of the internet—30 years since the launch of the first-ever publicly available webpage.

Since then, the humble webpage has evolved beyond imagination, transforming the world and our lives as we know it. To understand how we arrived at this point, let’s look at some of the most transformative changes which have shaped the online experience that we enjoy today.

The Birth of the Webpage

On August 6, 1991, without any real fanfare, British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee published the first-ever web page on the World Wide Web (WWW)—or web, as most of us fondly refer to it. Just two years earlier, in 1989, Berners-Lee had invented the WWW. This followed the creation of ARPANET in 1969, which enabled multiple computers to communicate on a single network and is considered to be the forerunner to today’s internet. 

This original web page simply listed information on the WWW project. It ran on a NeXT computer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN. This is how it looked:

The first webpage’s address:

Since that very day 30 years ago, the web has gone on to change the way the world functions—from how we do business to how we teach, learn, and communicate. It is an intrinsic part of the modern world. 

Advertising Goes Digital

Not only did the emergence of the internet open the doors to digital advertising, but there has also been a huge shift in how advertising on the open internet is bought and sold. Back in the 1990s, website publishers directly sold their ads to brands and agencies with a phone call and a handshake.

The first-ever banner ad on the web was an advertisement for AT&T in 1994, and hordes of people clicked on it. That is not the same story these days!

The first banner ad! 

In the 2000s, aggregation became necessary because the web had exploded with too many sites for marketers to vet personally. This led to the rise of ad networks that aggregate and sell ad space—or inventory—to advertisers, aiding publishers to sell less popular inventory. 

The next stage of the advertising evolution across the open web saw a larger pool of inventory being bought and sold much like stocks, through marketplaces called ad exchanges. Ad exchanges use bidding technology to help publishers as well as advertisers to optimize their digital ad buys, finding the right person at an appropriate price in just seconds. You could now buy ad inventory on a 1:1 basis rather than segments.

2010 saw the emergence of programmatic media buying, enabled by bidding technology designed to help publishers and advertisers target and optimize their buy across multiple ad exchanges. Underpinned by advanced AI and machine learning techniques, you could now reach consumers at scale in segments of one, providing much more efficient ROI and cost-effective advertising for brands and an enhanced experience for consumers. 

This has all been achieved in a mere 30 years. As internet speeds and web design have improved, more doors have opened for advertisers. 

The Free and Open Internet 

We are now spending more time online than ever before, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this digital transformation, on both an enterprise and individual level. The web is now an integral part of our lives, and over the course of its rapid-fire evolution, we have seen it learn and grow, becoming smarter and adapting to the needs of its users. 

Currently, the largely open internet model brings opportunities for marketers. Being able to reach consumers at the right time, in the right context, and with the right messaging has brought about a whole new type of programmatic advertising in the last decade. 

In 2021, Berners-Lee tweeted, “In today’s world, access to the internet is a lifeline. It should be a basic right.” 

As champions of the free and open internet, Quantcast shares this sentiment. We believe in maintaining the open internet as a force for good.

The foundation of the internet was built on value exchange, in which advertising plays a vital role. We don’t want the free internet to put its shutters up and only be accessible to some, and not the masses. Quality content cannot and should not only be accessible to the privileged

We must all recognize that Google is not the whole internet; it is an on-ramp into the amazing information and content that we have access to today. Those resources make up the free internet, which is largely funded by digital advertising, an entire trillion-dollar business in itself. This is still largely unrecognized by consumers, but it is a trade-off that all of us, as consumers, have implicitly made in order to have access to free and open content.

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