Online for Twenty Years

A “Thank You” letter to the WWW


1997 was the year where I went online for the first time. Having just bought a dial-up modem, it took me a while to get everything running. The computer at my parents’ house needed to be relocated, so it would be closer to the landline. Sure, we all shared one computer, and it was anything but portable.

In the end it all worked out. I was online for the first time ever. Nothing fancy, I looked at a news site, as I did not know a lot of URLs. Also, I was not aware how this would affect the phone bill, so to play it safe my first trip did not last long. But I was fascinated that this once isolated computer turned into a window to the world. I had to come back. To go online. Which was quite a journey. These days I just pull my phone out of my pocket. Back then I had to walk up to the computer, turn it on and wait. As “soon” as the operating system was fully booted up, I had to dial in, and by doing so, other residents, i.e., parents, were no longer able to use the phone for regular calls. On a good day it took me five minutes until I had a connection established and an empty web browser in front of me. Ready to type in a URL.

Add another minute or so, and I had a website on my screen. Today, if a site does not load fast enough, I’ll simply close the browser tab and move on. After seconds. What happened to aforesaid minute? How things have changed.

Internet provided by internet provider

What did not change is the fact that even back then you needed someone that got you online. My first internet provider not only gave me access to the world, but also a small amount of webspace. I wanted make use of it, and after having figured out how to upload files I was ready to go. Really? Well, I had an educational background in information technology, so I knew and used a fair amount of programming languages, but all those predated the languages of the web. That’s why I started to learn HTML.

Slowly but surely I managed to build my first site. We used URLs that looked like http://members.provider.tld/~user/, and anyone who stumbled upon my URL could access my content. My window to the world turned out to be no one-way street, I was able to contribute.

Screenshots of my website from the time when there was a tilde in the URL.
In the last century, I changed the design of my website frequently, as I liked to play around with HTML. I used tables for layout (what else?) and the content was only available in German.

I did not stop there, learning JavaScript was soon to follow. A couple of years later CSS became a thing. But it all started with learning HTML.

Looking back now, a life-changing decision. These humble beginnings turned into a career.

The best is yet to come

We’ve finally figured out Responsive Web Design, but the web is constantly evolving. What excites me these days is the Offline-First approach. And I’ve already been tinkering with Progressive Web Apps, they will change the way we think about the web once again.

I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I’ve been able to work with this wonderful medium for twenty years now. But the best is yet to come. The web is a gift that keeps on giving.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world (wide web).