Financial News

  • 12 March 2014, 13:44

World Wide Web Had To Beat Off Competition

Like VHS triumphing over Betamax, the World Wide Web had to beat off stiff competition to become number one.

Minitel and Gopher were among a host of services that could potentially have become the default way we share information online.

State-subsidised Minitelwas rolled out across France from 1978 onwards, and delivered data to terminals in people's homes using telephone lines.

It also allowed people to make online purchases, make train reservations, and check stock prices.

It was so successful that as recently as 1997 French President Jacques Chirac boasted: "Today a baker in Aubervilliers knows perfectly how to check his bank account on the Minitel. Can the same be said of the baker in New York?"

In the early 1990s, France Telecom set up a pilot project in Ireland, with an eye on launching in the UK or the United States.

But it was not successful and the service was retired in June 2012.

Gopher, meanwhile, is a protocol for sharing and searching documents over the internet, and in its early stages it was a potential alternative to the web.

The system is text-dominated and was preferred by data administrators, but more recent versions have added support for multimedia elements.

While it was overtaken by the web, it is still used by enthusiasts and hobbyists and some servers remain.

One of the reasons the web triumphed is thanks to US vice president Al Gore.

He urged government agencies in Washington to use the system, and the launch of the whitehouse.gov website was seen as a state seal of approval for the web.

But it's unclear what the future holds. Use of the web is dipping as the use of apps is on the rise. Someone can check their emails, read the news and social network - all without actually using the web.

Will it be the end of the web as we know it? Experts say you would be crazy not to be open-minded.

Professor Fionn Murtagh, from De MontfortUniversity in Leicester, said: "Will there be a different type of web in the future?

"Extrapolating everything that's gone before then yes, of course there will be."

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