In 1989, the Swiss physics laboratory, CERN, was buzzing with information but it had one big problem: ideas, data and knowledge held by the lab was stored across incompatible computers.
A young scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, envisioned creating a unifying structure for sharing information across its computer systems.
He wrote a proposal for a linked information sharing system on 12 March 1989. It included sharing functions like HTML, URL, and HTTP. And later, it had the founding principles that it was to be open and free.
By 1991, this vision of universal connectivity had become the World Wide Web.
Just three decades after its first proposal, the internet has done some wonderful things for our lives. At the click of a button or the tap of a phone, we can find the song we want, or a great new film to watch.
We shop online for almost everything – from products to services from all over the world. And pub arguments are settled instantly with a quick check on Google.
It has fuelled a global technological revolution and created the online economy – on which many thousands of companies now rely.
So much subsequent development has been built on the building blocks of Berners-Lee’s proposal, that it’s hard to imagine a world without it.
Despite the challenges – including the recent prolific spread of fake news and Nation state-sponsored misinformation – the web was designed to democratise access to information with its decentralised and permission-less way of sharing.
It has armed consumers with greater access to knowledge and choice than ever before and spurred change across almost every industry.
Take mortgages, for example. The creation of the internet has meant that, where once it took hours of meetings, reams of paperwork, and weeks of waiting, an application can now be done from the comfort of your sofa.
Sharing information between computers has also allowed us to build sourcing algorithms that can access and analyse all 20,000 mortgages on the market from over 100 lenders in a matter of seconds, to find exactly the right one for each applicant.
Doing this has freed up our brokers to do what humans do best: thinking creatively about complicated cases with empathy for customers, not manual searching and data entry.
In fact, so much subsequent development has been built on the building blocks of Berners-Lee’s proposal, that it’s hard to imagine a world without it.
The internet has shown us the raw power of data that can be shared and processed instantly, from relatively simple applications, like Open Banking, to extremely complex Deep Learning, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the benefits that digitally sharing information can provide.
In the future, artificial intelligence will be able to learn patterns, sift data, and use predictive models will be far more efficient and accurate at credit decisioning than people. This will allow home-buyers to be approved for their mortgage in minutes, not months, and give consumers much greater certainty and less stress over their mortgage application.
Open Banking will give us much greater control over our finances. For example, by facilitating automatic switching of a mortgage when cheaper rates are available, it will put potentially thousands of pounds a year back into homeowner’s pockets.
From detailed house price information at our fingertips, to HM Land Registry exploring smart land ownership contracts, the way in which we buy, sell, move and value homes in Britain has changed rapidly, and will be unrecognisable in a few more years’ time.
Thanks to the technological building blocks laid down by the creation of the World Wide Web 30 years ago, we are entering a new, technology-enabled, phase of home buying. And, one that is going to do a far better job for consumers.
Maybe soon you’ll explore inside a future home without leaving your house, or walk around a virtual neighbourhood to get a feel for the area.
Or perhaps augmented reality will overlay with real world information.
We’ve come a long way in thirty years, but I firmly believe that the best days of the web, and the products and technology that it gives us access to, are still to come.