In this multipart collection on the history of the internet, it is essential that we understand what the internet and its technology are, for us to appreciate it in all its glory. The story of the internet is a thriller, one which this multipart collection will try to narrate as effectively as possible.
The year was 1991, the year of discoveries, progress, conflict and assassinations. The dead sea scrolls had been discovered, adding thousands of years of lost collective human knowledge back to the human collective, Dow Jones average topped 3000 for the first time, marking an unprecedented financial explosion, the US-NATO coalition launched operation Desert Storm at the height of the Gulf War and Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated triggering a series of communal riots across the world’s biggest democracy.
But in this remarkable year, there was one event that can, in hindsight, be seen as the single biggest event of millennial humans, the birth of the world wide web.
Little did its creators know that this event would be a singularity of epic proportions. In the not so distant future, it would enable revolutions, military coups, impeachments and influence elections. At the time, it was perceived as just another technology, created to ease human existence, to enhance humanity’s most fundamental requirement, as a species, communication.
1991 was more than 25 years ago and in these 25 years, the internet has brought about unfathomable changes in the world. With technological advances, the capabilities of the internet grew, and so did the stack powering the internet. In this article, we will try to address the five fundamental questions about the internet stack,
What is the stack?
The sum of all individual components, from the server to the UI, which work in harmony to convert machine level code to an interactive experience for the end user, while safeguarding the integrity of the source code, is the stack.
From 1991 to 2017, the stack has grown several folds sideways, but not vertically. The endpoints of the stack have always remained the same. After all, the brightest minds of the century came together to architect the stack over 50 years preceding 1991. But that is a story for another day.
What was the stack in 1991?
Originally, the internet was perceived as a vast collection of text documents, linked together by hyperlinks. The first website, https://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html was just that,
During those simpler times, the stack was simple as well.
For developers, the stack was nothing more than
Where the frontend was almost non-existent, and the premise of the technology being communication, IRCs were the norm of the day, with a simple text-based chat visualization.
While there are a lot smaller parts that contribute to the amazing effectiveness and efficiency of the internet, this article unfolds the story of the internet from the perspective of developers.
What was the stack in 2006?
15 years on, the internet was thriving, with irreplaceable services like search engines and social networks, trying to digitize the human experience. With this outlook, it was imperative that the user interface evolved as well. This is how facebook looked in 2006,
The stack grew to address the needs of the day. With interactive user experiences and functionality, performance was high on the minds of developers. Product distinction was perceived in its ability to render services quickly. The need to fine tune lower tiers of the stack became a priority. In that day, the stack looked more like this,
What is the stack today?
15 years on, the internet has become the world in itself. The internet is no longer just a communication platform, it is a service. RESTful API driven SAAS apps have become the norm, with businesses providing microservices in their offerings. The internet of today is a much busier place, more complex than ever.
Every technology identified on the Gartner Hype Curve, 2016 has a web interface. Most, if not all of these technologies have web architectures. As is obvious, the next 10-15 years will mark a paradigm shift in the concept of web development. The outlook for web developers as website developers becomes narrower by the day. Now, the web is more than just a collection of websites, it is an ecosystem of microservices, capable of executing incredibly functions like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Self-driving automobiles and others.
With the onset of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, UI has gotten its third dimension. UI in 2017 is no longer restricted to a screen,but is not augmented with ocular wear. The stack thus has had to grow with these requirements. Today, the stack looks a lot more like this,
Notice how technologies are synonymous with the organisations providing them. Each having a slight edge over their respective competitors.
In this age of ultra diversification and specialization, it gets harder for a developer become a full stack developer.
What will the stack be in 2030?
If the last 25 years is any indication as to how quickly things in the world of internet change, one thing is for certain, the stack will grow even more. As of this writing, Virtual reality, Machine learning, Blockchain technology, Internet Of Things, Autonomous transport, Virtual assistants and Artificial Intelligence are all in its infancy, with each of them having potentially explosive impacts on humanity. The needs of each of these technologies are distinct and will require even more paradigm shifts to achieve.
In these progressive times, becoming a full stack developer gets more and more impossible a mission. As it stands, the best way forward for today’s developers is to specialize in one of the emerging technologies and master its micro stack.