It is impossible to predict the future.

25 years ago, in 1991, F W de Klerk announced the end of Apartheid in South Africa paving the way for Nelson Mandela to be South Africa’s first black president.

Boris Yeltsin became the first President of the Russian Federation, signalling the end of the 46-year-old Cold War.

A coalition of 34 countries led by the US and the UK attacked Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait – The first Gulf war starts the involvement of “Western” armed forces active conflict in the Middle east that continues to this day, 25 years on.

Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist at CERN in Switzerland invented the world-wide web and launched the first web site – info.cern.ch.

No one would have predicted then, which event would have the biggest global impact.

The Scale of the Challenge

Big things are impressive – the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Monster Trucks…

The Web is big, really big. It is hard to get your head around just how big it is.

25 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee unwittingly released a conceptual virus upon the world that would proceed to replicate and mutate, changing the way that people live their lives across the globe from international cities like New York, London and Tokyo to some of the more remote regions of Africa. The combination of the Internet, Hypertext and communications technology has proved to be unstoppable.

20 years ago there were just over a quarter of a million websites and about 77 million people were connected to the Internet. The previous year, Windows 95 had been out for over a year and over the previous Christmas, Bill Gates realised that the Internet may be important for the future so Microsoft hurriedly updated their strategy.

10 years ago there were over 85 Million websites and over a billion people online.

Today there are over a billion websites and over a third of the world’s population are online. The web has become a primary source for news, entertainment, business IT, finding life partners, communicating with friends and relatives and is now disrupting the political establishment across the world.

Over the last 25 years, websites have constantly evolved as technologies such as broadband, browser capability and the computing devices themselves have evolved. In 1994 we saw the launch of images and text appearing in one browser. A decade later that videos became a possibility through enabling technologies.

Today we have smart phones and tablets as well as laptops and desktops, the web is full of HD and 4K video, audio, images and interactivity. VR 360 degree video with 3D audio, enterprise software applications… basically anything and everything you can think of.

The traffic is also going both ways – in the early days, the data traffic was almost exclusively from websites to their audience. Today, for example, YouTube estimate that hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to their site every minute and over a billion users are storing their data, photographs and other media “in the cloud”

Over the last 6 years, the average size of a single web page has grown from 702kB in 2010 to 2.2 MB in 2016. I MB of this growth can be attributed to still images.

The risk of Success

When you create a new website for a client, remember Tim Berners-Lee.

It impossible to predict how successful an idea might be and in many cases, unexpected over-achievement can be as bad as not achieving your initial goals.

In 2006, British teenager, Alex Tew, came up with the idea for the Million Dollar Home Page in order to raise funds to finance himself through university – the idea took off and he ended up with just over 1 million dollars but along the way, the road was bumpy…

“From the outset I knew the idea had potential, but it was one of those things that could have gone either way. My thinking was I had nothing to lose (apart from the 50 Euros or so it cost to register the domain and setup the hosting). I knew that the idea was quirky enough to create interest … The Internet is a very powerful medium.” Alex Tew, 22 February 2006.

The bumps in the road included having to constantly beef up the server bandwidth to cope with the high level of traffic and, at one point, coping with a DDOS attack and ransom demand that took the site down for a week.

The takeoff point for his site was a press release being picked up by the BBC and the television coverage that followed.

Increasingly, television coverage can have a massive impact on a site – take Dragon’s Den, a TV ‘game show’ for entrepreneurs that is now produced in over 30 international versions. With consumers now sitting in front of their TV with their smartphone and/or tablets to hand – the response time for something being mentioned to a surge in page requests on the website can be measured in seconds. Participants in Dragon’s Den frequently find their websites crashing during broadcast, as their servers are overwhelmed.

This is where CDN comes in to play. Treat it as an insurance policy that will protect your client’s site from rogue or unexpected peaks in traffic. No one is suggesting that the next site that you build will be as influential as Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World-Wide Web, but better safe than sorry.

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