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Web reaches new milestone: 100 million sites (2006-11-01)

Websites have become a way to bond and belong. Are your Web surfing fingers getting tired?

There may be a reason. Netcraft, an Internet monitoring company that has tracked Web growth since 1995, says a mammoth milestone was reached during the month of October.

“There are now 100 million websites with domain names and content on them,” said Netcraft’s Rich Miller.

“Within that, there are some that are busy and updated more often, and that represents the active sites, which are at about 47 or 48 million,” he said.

Bloggers, small businesses, and simplicity have combined to create the dramatic growth of sites, much of it just in the past two years.

“The bottom line is it’s much easier to create a website nowadays, and it’s much easier to make money with a website,” said Miller.

Netcraft uses the domain name system to identify websites, check how many of them are in a particular location, such as what operating system and Web server software they’re running, and then publishes its information in a monthly report.

There were just 18,000 websites when Netcraft, based in Bath, England, began keeping track in August of 1995. It took until May of 2004 to reach the 50 million milestone; then only 30 more months to hit 100 million, late in the month of October 2006.

Netcraft says the United States, Germany, China, South Korea and Japan show the greatest website growing spurts.

Today there are seemingly endless websites for shopping, social networking, and, of course, sleaze.

But what was the subject of website number one in 1989?

“When the Web was started, it was started as a mechanism for sharing high energy particle physics data,” said Professor Rebecca Grinter of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing.

The creator of that website, Tim Berners-Lee, wanted experts to be able to share data on particle smashing, even if they weren’t at CERN in Switzerland where he was doing research. CERN, in Geneva, is the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Research facilities and universities soon started seeing benefits of this new tool for things as lofty as nuclear physics and as mundane as sharing restaurant recommendations.

Even today CERN proudly proclaims on its home page, “The world’s largest particle physics laboratory, where the Web was born!”

It did not take long for this technological baby to flourish.

“As is true of many things, if you teach a lot of students how to do something, these students go somewhere, and around ‘96, lo and behold, you see this much more significant transition of the Internet,” said Grinter.

Soon, a Web “explosion” took place when businesses realized they could use the Internet to make money.

“Websites begin to be incorporated into advertising. So that just sort of raises the awareness of the general public,” said Grinter.

And by the mid-’90s the cost of personal computers had fallen enough so that the Internet began entering peoples homes and schools as well as their workplaces.

The cost and the complexity of creating websites have both diminished since the beginning of the 21st century.

Computer users no longer have to be experts in HTML, or hypertext markup language, to be masters of their own websites.

“There have been price wars going on in both the domain name and Web hosting industries for some time now, and as a result it’s very affordable to create your own website, and the tools, the software being offered by these companies are much better,” said Miller.

Blogs and social networking sites link family, friends and experts in just about everything.

Bond and belong

“What we’ve seen is people finding interesting new ways to use the Web to showcase their information and their expertise; particularly in niches in all kinds of subjects where it’s really just opened the door to new uses of the Web,” said Miller.

Whether it is sharing photographs on, showing off an amateur video on, or looking for a mate on, websites have also become a way to bond and belong.

“The history of humanity is the history of being part of a group, having a group mentality, and the Internet makes a whole other set of those groups possible,” said Grinter. “And they don’t have to be physically proximate to you, you can create content for people who are physically distant,” she said.

So will a URL someday be as common as a birth name and a Social Security number?

For some celebrities, it already is. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt registered domains for all three of their children.

And in both the business world and the social scene, a website is now an identifier almost as common as a phone number or an e-mail address.

“The Web has gone from being a very straightforward thing where you put some text and perhaps some images, to being this incredibly powerful medium in and of itself. You can engage so much more dynamically, and so many more people are doing so many more things. And who knows what will come about tomorrow?” said Grinter.

Source: • Marsha Walton

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