The Web turns 25 today, and though most UF students don’t remember a time when the Internet wasn’t around, the university—and higher education—has changed drastically since the web’s inception.
The Internet was a complicated project that transformed from a university project to a commercial and international phenomenon in the late 1980s.
Andy McCollough, associate provost of teaching and technology at UF, said the addition of the Internet has opened up the educational process.
Students have information more readily accessible, and a geographic tie between a class and a student is no longer necessary.
“What this technology has done has provided additional opportunities to integrate technology into the classroom,” he said. “As a consequence, it has opened up the teacher-student interchange to opportunities that were previously not available”
UF launched its first homepage in February 1995, joining only 300 other universities, according to Alligator archives.
Nowadays, it would be nearly impossible to find a university without one.
The 1995 page included “a catalog of courses, telephone and electronic mail directory, information about Gainesville and Alachua County and connections to other colleges’ Web pages.”
Fedro Zazueta, associate CIO and director of academic technology, said in an email that UF’s website is the first link with the rest of the world.
“The University of Florida’s web presence is truly our ‘front door’, welcoming people visiting from around the globe,” he said. “In the last completed academic year, www.ufl.edu recorded 18,453,622 unique visitors from more than 220 countries.”
Gatorlink debuted in August 1997, offering students free ISIS, email and computer lab access. Undergraduates previously paid $20 per term for UF-hosted email addresses. Using the Internet on a computer in dorms cost $60 per semester in the Fall and Spring, and $25 during Summer sessions, according to Alligator archives.
Gatorlink may have been up and running, but many UF students’ first experiences were with myspace and AIM.
Lindsey Jones, a 22-year-old UF film and media studies senior, said she remembers her first experiences online, including a Neopets account and several AIM accounts.
"The biggest drama in my life was what my away message was going to be," she said.
The advances the Internet has made in education are helpful, she said, but she considers the Internet somewhat of a crutch as much as it was a tool.
"Our parents made it through high school and college without Google, so maybe they have something going that we don't," she said.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/12/2014 under the headline "Happy 25th birthday, Internet!!1"]