The World Wide Web is still at the very early stages of development.  Five years ago the Web was not a common part of the typical American household.  Today, the Web is being used more and more by the average American to do everyday tasks like, purchase groceries, pay bills, trade stocks, even buy Christmas presents.  Video streaming on the Web now allows users to watch important events like the Republican Convention.  It seems that in the next five, ten, twenty years, the Web will become more and more a part of everyone's life, and will probably have a far more revolutionary effect on society than the introduction of television in the 1950s.  The more prevalent the Web becomes as a communication tool in our society, the more "Web Icons" will develop as a universally recognized form of language.

This site has traced the use of icons on the Web from the very early days of the Internet up until today.  As the introduction explains, in the early days of the Internet, Web pages rarely contained icons.  But as the Internet has become more and more commercialized and Web sites have become more and more sophisticated, Web icon systems have begun to evolve.  As the case studies  demonstrate, today, about fifty percent of today's commonly used search engines now have an icon system. 

If we are still at the early stages of the evolution of the Internet, what then does the future hold, and how will icons evolve on the Internet in the future? 

It is clear that there is a trend towards more sophisticated Web sites that contain an icon system.  Well-developed icons allow the visitor to quickly understand the tools on a Web site.  Good icons also contain a visual image that a visitor may cognitively recognize more quickly than written text.  For example, the image of a shopping cart may more quickly invoke the idea of purchase in the visitor's mind than the word "shopping".

How will these icons evolve?  Will there be one universal system, or many?  Will each developer of a Web site have to develop and design their own system of icons, or will they copy other icon systems used on other Web sites?  No one knows the answer to these questions and only time will tell.  It is unlikely, because of political barriers, that one governing Internet body will ever really enforce the use of one universal system of icons.  It seems that eventually, one or two sets of suggested icon systems may voluntarily be adopted by the majority of the world's Web design community.  It is very inefficient and time consuming for Web site developers to re-develop an individual set of icons for each Web site design, so it seems that the Web site community is more than ready for a good set of standard Web icons that can be put into common use.  The "shopping cart" icon and "e-mail this" icon are examples of icons that are being voluntarily adopted by the Web site design community as part of the evolving new Web icon language.  In the future, we will see a huge growth in standard icons on Web sites as the language of the future, the language of the Web icon matures.

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