Recipe for success, part I
The answer sounds simple: the Web was the right platform at the right time. The exponential rate of adoption can be attributed to six factors:
- Relevant paradigm.
The success of the Web is the success of the client/server paradigm. Client/server is simple: both HTTP client and HTTP server are relatively easy to implement. Client/server puts all the burden of scalability on the operators of the server, who are normally in a position to cope with it. Most notably, client/server was a good match for the topology of the Internet circa 1993: high-powered machines on high-speed links, low-powered machines on low-speed links.
- Fast and easy content authoring.
The only tool you need to start creating Web content is a text editor. Ability to "View source" allows users to learn HTML without looking at documentation. The Web browser never refuses to display a page—if you make a mistake, it is automatically corrected most of the time. Learning HTML can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience since the language makes creating good looking multimedia documents very easy.
- Ease of content distribution.
You don't have to get permission from anyone to join the Web. In the early days, you could just compile and run CERN httpd—you didn't even need to have your own machine or ask your administrator since you could run the server on an unprivileged port. Today, even non-technical users can quickly gain access to the Web for publishing content. There is no barrier to the exponential growth of the content distribution network.
- Superlinear utility.
The network effect of the Web is remarkable. With a simple tag, you can link to—and build upon—information contributed by anyone worldwide. Each new webpage can be both the source of the links and the target of the links, adding connections that make existing content more valuable.
If you had to only pick one network client, you would choose a Web browser that has built-in support for other protocols such as FTP. Uniform Resource Locators make all Internet resources addressable from HTML, providing seed content that accelerates and sustains growth of the Web.
- Optimal use of computing resources.
The Web exploded at the time when the networks became fast enough to transmit images, and the general-purpose computers good enough to display them: this is no coincidence. By exploiting timely technological advances the Web captured popular imagination.