Just as artists visit Florence to be inspired by the works of Michelangelo, web designers have their own list of hubs they can flock to in order to appreciate the places that shaped their industry into what it is today. From companies that made the Internet a reality to organizations that developed designers’ tools of trade, the following list is the best place to start your pilgrimage to some of the notable spots which made navigating cyberspace possible.
Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) pioneered the introduction of the World Wide Web back in the 1980s. Long before becoming the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext to allow sharing and updating research among researchers. The prototype he built in the 1980s, which was name ENQUIRE, paved the way for the creation of the World Wide Web. By connecting hypertext with CERN’s largest Internet node, he created the web. The first website was also built at CERN in 1991 - Info.cern.ch – to provide information on the WWW project.
Spread across five continents through a number of regional offices, W3C was created in 1994 at the start of the web to “lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability." Hosted at MIT in the United States, this international community is led by Tim Berners-Lee and Jeffrey Jaffe. While you may not meet these greats during your visit, you can discover so much about the latest happenings in cyberspace by interacting with their research groups at the university’s Computer Science and AI Lab.
Established in Champaign, Illinois, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is responsible for Mosaic, an early web browser that enhanced the popularity of the World Wide Web by supporting multiple internet protocols. Developed at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the browser made history by displaying images in line with text rather than in a separate window. Though its last release was in 1997, Mosaic lives on through contemporary browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome as they retained many of its GUI’s characteristics.
From Mountain View, California, the Mozilla Foundation constantly develops and updates internet-related products. While its Firefox browser is the most important product, it offers a range of client applications, development tools, components, APIs and libraries and even a mobile operating system. However, long before Firefox came along, the Mozilla Organization was created by Netscape to develop the Mozilla Application Suite. When AOL scaled back its involvement, the Mozilla Foundation launched in 2003. Due to the hard work of its founding teams, Mozilla managed to survive and thrive. And the rest is history.
Currently headquartered in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft was one of the participants of the browser wars between 1996 and 1999. In 1995, the company released its first competitive browser Internet Explorer 1.0. Developed by Mosaic, the browser was the first of its kind to support style sheets. The second release of Explorer was available for free download three months later. Even commercial companies could use it as long as they were using Windows operating systems. Aside from Microsoft’s role in the early history of the web, you should consider popping by as most of the people viewing your creations are actually using Windows to access your content.
Founded in 1982 and currently headquartered in San Jose, California, Adobe is probably a designer’s best friend. Not only do you use Dreamweaver to create hundreds of the thousands of sites you design, chances are that you use Creative Cloud products like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Moreover, Adobe is the current owner of Flash. Originally known as FutureSplash back in 1996, this technology gave designers nightmares because of compatibility issues. However, its benefits ensured that it became popular among target markets before being used to develop entire sites.
The corporate headquarters of Google, Googleplex is located at Santa Clara County, California. It’s the home of Google Inc., the company behind the top search engine Google. However, after its rise in popularity, the company started acquiring a range of smaller organizations along with their signature products, expanding beyond search into advertising, productivity tools, and even mobile operating systems. As Google mandates some of the aspects of web design through its algorithms, visiting Googleplex is a great idea. You can interact with top designers there and learn a few tricks that would keep your clients’ sites relevant and search engine-friendly.
Founded in 1998 in New York, The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) is responsible for driving the creative, technical and professional evolution of the Internet and interactive media. It’s the organization responsible for the Webby Award, which is an award for excellence on the Internet. Known as the Internet’s Highest Honor, a Webby is granted to innovators across different categories, including websites, online film, and mobile sites and apps.
You can’t mention Microsoft without mentioning Apple. One of the pioneering personal computer creators, the company headquartered in Cupertino, California has both rabid fans and detractors. However, you can’t ignore its influence on the web as you know it. Apple’s video and graphics capabilities have made many creative web designers its fans. Moreover, its Safari browser is one of the new entrants in the second generation of browser wars initiated in the 2000s. Therefore, make sure to drop by to find out what’s cooking at Apple.
Established in 2005 in San Francisco, California, Automattic is a web development corporation. However, chances are that you didn’t know it was responsible for WordPress.com and a main contributor to WordPress, two services you depend highly on for your work. Comprising of 384 employees, Automattic is led by online social media entrepreneur and web developer Matthew Mullenweg.
You can add other popular favorites such as WordCamp, Dice Holdings and the site of Netscape HQ in Mountain View, California. Just remember to visit these first to learn about the history of your profession.