In 1989, a European computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee composed a paper with a very revolutionary idea about an information management system that would allow people around the world to retrieve pages hosted on computers. This paper has dramatically changed the way people have lived their lives for the past 25 years that it becomes unfathomable to remember how society functioned before the World Wide Web. The most popular misconception about the World Wide Web and the Internet is they are one in the same. The concept of the Internet has existed since the 1960s when research was commissioned by the United States government to have information and data exchange between geographically separate computer networks. The World Wide Web is a system of interlink hypertext documents that are attainable through the Internet with a web browser.
Before Berners-Lee and Mosaic, the very first web browser, the Internet was such an esoteric topic that most people did not know what it was except for computer geeks and the technology intelligentsia. If Berners-Lee was driven by money he would probably be a billionaire beyond that of Bill Gates, however in 1990 he chose to release his code for free to the world turning the Internet from a technology embraced by a few to a universally adopted medium that has tremendously impacted almost every culture in the world. Very few had the foresight on how far the World Wide Web would go and how much of a prominence it would have on humanity.
In 1995, only 14 percent of Americans had the internet and only two percent were using state-of-the-art modems that had rapid speeds of 28.8 bytes per second. Generation Y have no perception of life without emails, streaming songs or accessing viral information. In 25 years the World Wide Web has penetrated every aspect of civilization that social, political and financial infrastructures would collapse without it. Most Americans would rather give up their televisions than their Internet access.
The World Wide Web has made many progressive changes to society. When vital information needs to be accessed it can be done with a few clicks via a computer, tablet or smartphone. In the old days one would have to go to the library and peruse through dozens of periodicals and/or books to pinpoint data. Now through the Internet anybody can become fluent in any subject with vast information available on web pages. The World Wide Web has also reduced the time for people to pay bills, fill out an employment applications and shop. The most alluring feature of the Internet is that it is an inclusive realm not controlled by any government, corporation or regulatory body. A person can become famous, wealthy and creator of their own world on the web because the Internet is a “free-for-all” kingdom where nobody has absolute power.
As much as the Internet has had many positive effects on society it also reaped negative consequences. The Internet has made numerous industries extinct and many more will follow suit. The music industry was the Internet’s first victim when sites like Napster made it easy to get music for free and forced record companies to restructure they way they put out music. Stores like Tower Records and independent record shops quickly became a pastime of music buying. The most recent fatality from the internet is the print and publishing industry because digital ink is the new way for people to read any kind of information. Borders, the bookstore chain was laid to rest in 2011 when it went into bankruptcy liquidation. Now with Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader people can carry a number of books on a tablet that weighs less than a pound.
The most disturbing issue the World Wide Web has encountered is abuse and misrepresentation of information. The Internet has made it easier for criminals to commit acts on innocent people. Most notably sex offenders, with shows like To Catch A Predator it showcased how easy it is for a pedophile to lure a minor into their grasp. Also many scams are so prevalent on the Internet that users need to be of aware and put on the defense to know what is legitimate and what is not. The Internet makes it easier for a person to be something they are not, especially dating sites where it has placed many in danger when meeting that “special someone” in person after weeks or months of chatting on the web could result in rape or murder.
Just like any other technology, the World Wide Web has the “good, bad and ugly” and its first 25 years has changed the way the world interacts on all levels. It has provided opportunities to many who have made innovative developments that have dismantled the status quo on how we communicate to others. Now with cloud technology, the next 25 years should be interesting and exciting for more new things to come via the Internet.
By Isriya Kendrick