The world wide web celebrates the 25th anniversary of its public launch date this week, but, really, it hit its quarter of a century mark back in 2014 – the year that marked 25 year since British scientist Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for “an online information management system that could be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world, at any given time”.
Berners-Lee considered calling his system ‘The Information Mine’ but figured that name didn’t quite have the right ring to it. Fast forward to 2016 and the World Wide Web, as it was ultimately christened and is still known as, celebrates its (very) public 25th birthday. And it’s something well worth celebrating.
A quarter of a century of online social networking, individual blogging, independent fund-raising, eBay and Amazon shopping, Reddit bragging, Friend-poking, Uber-booking, and Wiki-leaking. Of silly kitten-falling-in-love-with-puppy videos, flash-in-the-pan YouTube sensations, digital matchmaking miracles, Hightail file-sharing, Instagram uploading, and virtual bullying. Not to mention the endless abyss of porn available at our grubby fingertips.
Without the World Wide Web, we wouldn’t be able to sum up the day’s news in 140 characters or less. We wouldn’t have the privilege of keeping in touch with old friends whom we couldn’t actually be bothered sharing pleasantries with face-to-face. And we certainly wouldn’t be able to instantly find the answer to the question, “What crap has Kendall Jenner been up to today?”
Think about it. Without the information superhighway (as it was once affectionately referred to) we’d be void of all the useful information that makes us smarter, and all the useless information that makes us think “we’re smarter that that”. We’d have no idea if the trains were running on time until we’d heard some codger tell us two hours too late on the morning ‘news’. We wouldn’t get to hear snippets of the latest music releases before committing to buy them. And, yes, we wouldn’t be able to illegally download the occasional bootleg.
The World Wide Web offers us mini doses of enlightenment every second of every day. Without it, it’d be like living in the dark ages.
On a more profound note, it has opened the floodgates of democracy, allowing us to have our say on virtually any topic or subject, gradually chipping away at centuries-old ideological and social-behavioural construct (ie: not always the right ways to think and behave).
To this day, Berners-Lee is optimistic about a medium that allows for “free and uncensored” commentary, and expresses his concern that the democracy of the web might soon be a thing of the past. Said he in a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ session, “I am concerned and excited about the web’s future. I think some monitoring of the net by government agencies is going to be needed to fight crime [but] we need to invent a new system of checks and balances with unprecedented power to be able to investigate and hold the agencies which do it accountable to the public.”
Continues the man of many wise words, “The web is an artificial creation, as are our laws and our constitutions. We can choose how they work, or we can make new ones. It’s our choice.”
On a lighter note, my darlin’ Mum recently signed up to Facebook. That she occasionally refers to it as ‘MySpacebook’ pretty much sums up all the great things about the internet. It helps get our message across even when that message contains a kooky mistake; it allows for correction by more ‘enlightened’ parties; it leads to consistent and enjoyable communication (so long as you turn a blind eye to online trolling); and, even with all its linguistic blunders and typos, it’s as entertaining as all hell.
So Happy Birthday to you, World Wide Web. I saved on not buying you a card and simply sent you an email instead. Check your inbox. Antonino Tati