Web 1.0

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What Does Web 1.0 Mean?

Web 1.0 is the term used for the earliest version of the Internet as it emerged from its origins with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and became, for the first time, a global network representing the future of digital communications. It describes the first “iteration” of what became a growing, evolving medium that eventually expanded into a platform with profound multi-functional uses.


The early Internet was mostly composed of web pages joined by hyperlinks, without the additional visuals, controls and forms that we see when we log on today. Experts refer to it as the “read-only” web – a web that was not interactive in any significant sense. The web user was, for the most part, passive, and much of the user input took place offline.Generally, Individual webpages were made of static pages that were hosted on web servers run by an internet service provider (ISP) or on free web hosting services.

As stakeholders cobbled the Internet together from connected laboratories and commercial servers and other digital hop points, we hadn’t developed the later infrastructure that would allow for “read/write” Internet functionality and much more. People logged on mostly to read about things, or to get updates on something, although very simple linear text chat was a feature of the later bulletin board system (BBS). Web users now may find it shocking that at the time of Web 1.0, running advertisements was banned.

Eventually, though, the use of dynamic URLs and other resources evolved what the Internet was able to do. Then came the cloud age, where software as a service could be delivered right over the Internet. Years later, today's Internet is barely recognizable as the successor to the early Web 1.0. Nearly any kind of digital function that used to be housed in an “out of the box” licensed piece of software can be delivered through the web. That leads to massive efficiencies and even a rethinking of traditional concepts like client/server design.

Exactly where Web 1.0 ends and Web 2.0 begins cannot be clearly defined as this a change that happened gradually over time as the internet became more interactive.

Techopedia Explains Web 1.0

A read-only Internet is significantly a source of information and a research guide. What it is not is a vibrant virtual community for user input or a store for functionality.

In fact, it's interesting that even years later when full functionality is delivered over the web, many corporate functions and user experiences are instead provided through mobile applications on operating systems iOS and Android, rather than through an Internet browser. The browser can deliver nearly any sort of function that an app can provide; in fact, on modern smartphones, it’s a user preference to either access a social media platform or other tool from an app, or through the web.

One of the best visual examples of Web 1.0, the early read-only Internet, is the collections of GeoCities pages and other early designs that users can still find scattered throughout corners of the web, or in archives like the Wayback machine.

Open one of these sites, and what you'll find is relatively rudimentary text and images positioned on the digital page, using pretty simple HTML code.

That Web 1.0 coding taught a generation to build web pages with the types of tags and commands that mostly styled, aligned and created color schemes for static content. Then, piece by piece, the web design environment became more evolved. Editor-type programs abstracted the use of HTML so that designers had to learn less of it. Layer languages like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) made it easier to code globally. Eventually the “look and feel” of the Internet became different, too. The old sites often look “dated” just like, say, a dining room or bathroom last renovated in the 1970s.

When you look at the old pages now, aside from these pages looking and feeling pretty simple, you won't find the elaborate web forms and other tools that characterize today's Internet, which we refer to as Web 2.0. In Web 2.0, it's easy for users to return data to a controlling server through a web form, dynamic URLs and more.

Another example is in e-commerce. A Web 1.0 e-commerce store would simply be a catalog through which the user can view products and services. There might be a button painstakingly created for the user to order, or there might just be an email address.

The Web 2.0 e-commerce store has payment systems built right into accommodate credit card payments online. Users can post reviews, ask for refunds, and create their own transactions.

Web 1.0 now belongs to the archives of history. However, as mentioned, there are still living pages from the days of Web 1.0 that we can see online to get a better grasp of how this early Internet activity worked.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.