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The Evolution of Website Builders

22.08.14 By Bitsy No comments

800px-Evolution-des-wissens It only seems appropriate that on the 25th anniversary year of the World Wide Web, we should take a moment to celebrate the evolution of website builders – the unsung heroes of the internet and pioneers in user-generated content. For those of us over the age of 20, the Internet might still be fondly remembered as a mysterious, nebulous network of disparate information, a gateway to walls of text and bouncing GIFs punctuated by a theme song of high pitched, screeching, dial tones. Pages took several minutes – not a few seconds – to load, and content tended to carry the distinct air of a high school science class presentation. Still, the early days of the world wide web were exciting ones, especially as so many of us realized that we, too, could have our very own page online. Like human evolution, website builders have moved from primordial, gooey systems with limited functionality to strong, complex machines capable of incredible things.

Geocities: The First Sign of Life

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.37.52

Geocities was originally founded as Beverly Hills Internet in 1994, the year the World Wide Web Consortium was founded to enact standards for web design and four years after HTML was first developed. Geocities was, for all intents and purposes, the first website builder. Conceived as the “Wild West” of the world wide web, Geocities was populated by “homesteaders” who were part of “29 Neighbourhoods” in different “cities”, each covering themes from conspiracy theories to celebrity fan pages. Their interface was clunky (and needless to say, achingly slow), but for many, it was also their first taste at joining the internet. Websites were mostly text based but with some advances, like color changing text and early graphics. They also predominantly took on the “table” format, developed in 1992 as the most intuitive form of site architecture thus far (previously, website had looked more like lists). Yahoo! bought Geocities in 1999, and sunk into oblivion ten years later. Currently, Geocities is only available in Japan.

AngelFire and Tripod – Marine Life

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.39.49 Both founded in the early 1990’s, AngelFire and Tripod evolved as slightly more complex website builders, albeit with slightly confusing mandates: AngelFire was originally offered as both a builder and a medical transcription service, while Tripod was conceived as “hip web site and pay service for and by college students”, offering tips for teens away from home, resume building tips, and of course, a homepage builder. Even if AngelFire and Tripod were essentially awkward teenagers, Tripod was still the first website builders to offer a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) builder which, as far as the evolution of website builders go, is about akin to the first marine creatures transitioning to land. Meanwhile, the dawn of Flash and Javascript in 1995-96 brought the first glimpses of interactivity to website builders, introducing animation and effects to web design. Both services were bought by Lycos in 1999, but unlike Geocities, both are still operational.

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WYSIWYG and HTML Builders – The Reptiles

Amaya_inuse As the Y2K scare came and went, and along with it the first major tech bubble burst, a slew of new website builders like Amaya, SiteSkins, and HighPowerSites began to emerge as the easiest way to build a website, with all new WYSIWYG and HTML capabilities. Although CSS had been around since 1996, it’s next version, CSS3, brought completely new capabilities to web design, as well as a more fluid HTML language. As the precursors to drag & drop editors, early WYSIWYG website builders resembled Microsoft Word, making them by far the most approachable for young businesses aching to get “on the net”. Sites from early WYSIWYG and HTML builders differentiated themselves from AngelFire and Tripod sites with a distinctly more modern appearance, including more elaborate textures and layout.

Flash and Drag & Drop Website Builders – The Mammals

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.52.55 Though Flash had been around since 1996, by the time the earliest Flash and Drag & Drop website builders emerged in the early 2000’s, users were starting to get the hang of creating more dynamic sites. Slow to load and even slower to be picked up by search engines (Google couldn’t read Flash), websites created with early Flash and Drag & Drop editors were clunky if fairly representative of what we know websites to have looked like up until recently. By 2003 – when 38 million websites already populated the internet – web2.0 made its debut, and along with it came social media, and blogging platforms such as WordPress. Suddenly, the clunkiness of a personal website could be replaced by the relative simplicity of a blog, ushering in a whole new wave of user-generated content.

HTML5 and Drag & Drop Website Builders – The Homosapiens

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.54.44 As the fifth generation of HTML, HTML5 is the current WWW standard, and comes with a range of features we’ve come to perceive as normal, such as <video> and <audio> syntactic features and scaleable vector graphic (SVG) integrations. With HTML5 (as well as its counterparts, CS3 and Javascript) came another generation of website builders like IM Creator, that are capable of creating beautiful, highly functional, and – most importantly for today’s devices – responsive websites.  More importantly for users, HTML5 website builders offer a far more intuitive Drag & Drop interface, making it possible for just about anyone to create a professional website without any coding or design knowledge.

The Future

Keeping our Jetson’s fantasies at bay, the future of the website builder (and indeed, the future of web design) is still very much up for discussion. For some, the future lies in page-less, “native” websites, ones that stray from the archaic “print” format that websites grew from and move to experiences that can only exist on the web. Advances in HTML5 (or 6, or 7, or…), CS3, and Javascript will also allow users to make websites that are far more maleable even by today’s standards, making updates as fluid as, say, tweeting.

For us, here at IM Creator, the future is something we think about all the time and we are working hard to bring the future towards the present. We see the future of website builders as being even more simple and approachable for novices, and yet, being the ultimate tool for web designers, allowing them to provide a full solution to their clients with no need for any coding at all. The future is closer than you might think, so follow us on twitter or facebook to stay tuned for coming  updates.

To finish off this post, here’s a little timeline taking you through the history of website builders:   Image Credits

Evolution-des-wissens.jpg at Wiki Commons 

Amaya inuse at Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

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