Prior to social media, smart phones and real-time communication was an age in which we’d “Surf the Web.” Read on to experience what that was like.
We would actually use the browser’s address bar and enter URLs (antiquated, contextual assets that Google is threatening to kill off at some point in the near future), and make our way around the Web humbly in this fashion. Keep in mind there were no smart phones or tablets in this period of time. And no social media. Laptops existed, but they were big and bulky and often more costly than workstations.
The TCP and UDP protocols existed, but neither was used in the way they are today: That is, for sophisticated live streams and real-time video broadcasts. Back then, the chat rooms of America Online (AOL) were all the rave and offered near real-time communication.
That is, of course, if your dial-up Internet connection wasn’t interrupted by an incoming phone call. If that happened, you’d be kicked off line immediately and forced to reestablish a decent Internet connection – all while hoping the cutie in the chat room would still be waiting for you. And, if you were REALLY lucky, you’d might even muster a new email notification. It might sound cheesy, but I still get chills when I hear the “You’ve got mail” sound file.
If you are young and ever hear anything remotely similar to the phrase “surf the web,” it is likely coming from an old buck like me. A guy who still thinks of himself as a young and cool college student in the late 1990s, with access to resources my country origins could never afford me. You couldn’t tell me at the time that I wasn’t going to be the next Bill Gates.
But then Sean Parker happened, and Tom from Myspace. Then Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Then Mark Zuckerberg, and a host of other guys. And just like that, it was no longer cool to surf the web. Steve Jobs, in so many words, declared that Flash was dead. And instantly, “cool” was no longer reserved to what we can see. It became all about performance, mobility and real-time transaction. Something the art of surfing just couldn’t live up to.
And hence we arrive at the billion dollar question: Why the heck did we describe it that way, anyway? Don’t take my word for it, but I imagine it was because it mirrored real-life surfing. If you were able to catch a good wave, you could ride it extensively. But there was always the inevitability of getting knocked off at some point – be it a dropped Internet connection or a CPU that had maxed out its processing power (something that Flash was notorious for causing). You’d basically have to rinse and repeat and catch a new wave.
And then there’s the concept of swimming with sharks, or in the Web’s case, avoiding them altogether. The sharks would be none other than malware; namely, the threats that existed during that time. Like the Melissa and Anna Kournikova viruses. Like the emergence of spam and distributed denial of services attacks. Even SEO poisoning was occurring in those days, long before the concept of Search Engine Optimization even existed. I often look back on those days with fond memories, however warped that may be.
I’m not a total dinosaur, as I’ve managed to keep up with the times and have had an illustrious career as a software developer. I’m also proud to say that I wrote this entire post on my smart phone – something I bet the younger generation of savvy users can’t do. Or maybe they can. But only a BEAST could swipe right, like and follow, and do all the stuff these young folks do – coming from an age in which we’d surf the web.