Today marks the 30th anniversary since the launch of the World Wide Web.
When I was around 10 years old, we got a family computer for the first time. I remember the day, going to PC World with my family and buying this cream-grey Compaq with a huge CRT monitor and a cool red logo.
I would spend weeks playing Civilisation on DOS over the summer, and building cities in Paint and Smartdraw, pixel by pixel, shape by shape.
Shortly afterward, we got the internet and I was awoken. What a game changer that was for me. I pretty quickly understood that there was something bigger to this ‘internet thing’ and remember my father telling me it was the ‘World’s Biggest Library’. As a child who grew up reading the encyclopedia and learning about Liquid Fuel Rockets, Napoleon, Fractional Distillation and everything in-between, this amazed me. The whole world’s knowledge, at my fingertips.
That day I learned that the internet was for everyone, and that I could put things on it. My love affair with the Web began. I still remember typing that curious magical syntax into Notepad, and transfixed, I watched it appear on the screen in front of me. Amazing stuff.
Fast forward 18 years, and that amazement continues. The internet has provided me a career, an income, a way for me to have a family, and a good life, and the ability to learn to work in an environment that is ever-changing, ever-evolving, every day. It is a lifeform unto itself, I merely interact with it, and leave my mark from time-to-time. I still dream of going to CERN and seeing where it was built, and one day I will go.
This is just my personal story, for others it has held far more significance. It has salvaged relationships, brought aid and awareness to countries and communities that needed it, given a voice to those whom could not previously speak out, and allowed the sharing and progression of knowledge and science in a way that has improved others lives immeasurably.
The internet has gotten a bad rap over the last few years. With the advent of smartphones and the rise of social media, we have given to lambasting the web for destroying our attention spans and plunging us into a pit of sadness.
However, blame not the entity of the internet, but the applications that we build upon it. Seek answers and retribution with those who would choose to build technology that aims to control and monetise us. Not with the platform which aims to bring us together and unite us and our knowledge.
I have always seen the internet as a human entity. In the early days, it was a baby. It couldn’t necessarily do very much, but it did it well. Then it grew, to a child. We got CSS3 and jQuery and away we went. We built cool stuff, not because we were going to make money, but because it was fun and we could.
Today, we are in the teenage years. The web doesn’t really know what it wants to be yet, so it is kind of ‘everything’. I hope over the coming years it grows into the adult we all know it can be, providing value for everyone, and to stop playing to the whims of those agents whom might wish to control it.
I’m not the world’s best writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it important on this day, to reflect on how far we have come together, and how much more we still have to do. Thank you for listening.
In parting, I would like to say thank you to Tim Berners-Lee and the hard working individuals at the W3C who have guided this fledgling network into the lifeform that it is, and say thank you to the World Wide Web.
You are more important than you know.