Twenty-five years ago in 1989 an obscure young computer scientist operating from a European physics lab presented the idea of a World Wide Web (the architectural structure for all web pages found on the Internet) in a technical paper. Tim Berners-Lee, based at the CERN lab in Geneva, outlined his revolutionary information management system to allow easy access of files on linked computers — an idea that paved the way for a global phenomenon that today touches the lives of billions of people.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee explains what was happening at the time: “Well, it was in 1989 and the Internet already existed and you could send e-mail, but there were no websites. So there was no http, no html. There was no space of things you could click through. And it began because I was frustrated. It didn’t exist. I imagined a system where you could just click from one to the other and that was so compelling that I decided that I wanted to build it.”
Berners-Lee presented his paper on March 12, 1989, a date that is now recognized as the birthday of the Web. However, his idea was so bold that it almost didn’t happen. Marc Weber, creator and curator of the Internet history program at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley recalls that, "There was a tremendous amount of hubris in the project at the beginning. Berners-Lee proposed his idea out of the blue, unrequested." At first, remembers Weber, the CERN colleagues "completely ignored the proposal."
Gartner Inc. analyst Michael McGuire recalls that, "At its birth, many of us were guilty of a lack of imagination and just didn't see what the Web would do to the future." In retrospect, however, McGuire observes that, "The personal computer changed the way we work, but it was the Web that disrupted and changed a lot of industries." The ability to freely access files on the Web has shaken traditional business models in film, music, news, advertising, publishing, writing and more.
Jim Dempsey, vice-president for public policy at the US-based Centre for Democracy & Technology agrees with McGuire. "The Internet pushes power to the edges. Anybody can be a listener and anybody can be a publisher on the same network; there has never been anything like it," says Dempsey.
Just for the sake of discussion and to join Berners-Lee in congratulating the World Wide Web on it's 25th birthday, we pose this question: Who are the biggest beneficiaries of the Web? This is, of course, an inflaming question that has no definite answer. But, the question allows us to reflect on some of the phenomenon advantages of the Web.
Almost everything you can think of can now be done online: shopping, networking, learning and work. Speaking of work, here’s a list of five best web jobs today that represent some of what the Web has enabled in terms of career opportunities, flexible working hours and good pay.
According to an article on the Wall Street Journal, there were almost as many people making their living as bloggers in 2009 as there were lawyers. About 1.7 million Americans were making money blogging and 452,000 of them were using blogging as their primary source of income. Fast forward to 2014 and bloggers have made significant strides forward with a good number of them earning anywhere from a few hundred dollar per month to thousands of dollars a month through blogging. Pat Flynn, for example, reported a net income of $64,094.73 in the month of February alone from activities on his blog. You can get tips galore on how to earn a living as a blogger on blogs like ProBlogger.net and DailyBlogTips.com.
Infopreneurs are web entrepreneurs who specialize in information products. They create, promote and creatively distribute these products through online channels, usually within a niche market. The products are packaged in different forms, such as e-books, MP3 audio files, videos, webinars and home study courses. The huge potential of selling information products is best exemplified by people like Timothy Ferriss, author of the #1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek (sold into 35+ languages), The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef.
As more and more individuals and brands move their business online, demand for web designers is increasing. Many bloggers, for example, find they need help setting up and updating their site design and code, which is where freelance web designers come in. For their services, Web designers typically earn an annual salary of $62,619 in the U.S., according to Salary.com. In the UK, the most frequently quoted maximum day rate for freelance web designers is £200 (about $332), according to Jobstats.co.uk. Not a bad sum to earn from the comfort of your own home.
Web developers enjoy a comfortable median salary of $62,500 with a projected employment growth rate of around 20% in the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While that salary is not bad, it is news of an increasing number of software developers hitting the financial jackpot that is interesting. In 2009, TechCrunch reported a story of “Some Indie Facebook Developers Pulling in over $700,000 a Month." In Feb, 2014, the same site reported Facebook’s massive $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp after Facebook founder Mark Zackerberg saw an obvious fit between the ephemeral app and his social network giant. Whether you work as a freelancer, a startup founder or an employee at an established company, developer jobs are indeed exciting, although also challenging.
With virtually everybody active (or at least semi-active) on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, publicists and marketing mavens have taken up well-paying roles of promoting their clients’ on these micro blogging sites to gain website traffic or attention. Others are leveraging the power of content to elevate their clients’ audience and customer base in a dramatic way. In April 2013, a study showed custom content spending on production and distribution had grown to $43.9 billion, thanks mainly to the growing importance of content for businesses and brands today. These opportunities could hardly be this big had the World Wide Web not existed.
So, has the World Wide Web benefited you personally? Share in the comments as we join Berners-Lee in celebrating the Web's 25th birthday.
Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr
You might also like
Spotlight book of the month
by Hugh MacLeod
Ever wonder what it really takes to make a living as a creative person in today's complicated world?
MacLeod presents some witty keys for creative success, including "ignore everybody. Why should you "ignore everybody"?
Because, he writes, nobody else can tell you whether your idea is worthwhile. People can give you advice, but at the end of the day, it's your decision. The more original an idea, the less helpful the advice is going to be.
Have something to say about this article? Share it with us in the comments section below.