I always listen to the radio in the morning. I start the day with B.B.C. Radio 4 News Briefing. It wakes me up to the latest events overnight and financial news as well as the latest sports results.
This morning I was in my usual half-awake state when the News Briefing went onto the bit where they look back on events that have their anniversary that day. Today they announced that it was twenty years since Tim (now Sir Tim) Berners-Lee came out publicly with the idea that he had to link hyperlinks in a network which became known as the World Wide Web.
What amazed me by this statement is just how far and fast we have travelled in the (to me) comparatively short period of time since the inception of the web. I wonder if he knew what he was giving to the world and how much this was going to transform our lives in a way that the industrial revolution had transformed lives but over a much longer period of time.
I am interested in listening and watching him and the way that he still has so much faith in his invention. The small quote that I heard this morning from the B.B.C. was where he stated that the net was about humanity and that, just as in the wider aspect of our lives, there is the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
The web has been used to bully, it has been used to slander (or is that libel?), to incite riot, to pass on comments that are racist, sexist, and homophobic. It has created a fertile ground for crime and for paedophiles. On the basis of these things alone there are many who would want to see it cut out of our lives, or at the very least censored.
The web though has also given us an increasingly powerful way of communicating. It has allowed us to have access to knowledge that was available before to only a select few. It has promoted a world of bloggers such as myself and has democratised publication. It has created a window on the world that has meant that politicians have to think about how they act for there are means to get opinions published instantly and widely.
In education it has brought universities into our living rooms, it has given us access to a world of videos, photographs, data, original documents, recordings. I know .. it has given us Facebook and Twitter and you may have mixed feelings about them (personally I’m a great fan as some of my readers will know).
It has transformed our lives in a very short space of time, a fraction of my lifetime (just over one-third) and a mere flicker in the history of our time on this planet. There are new developments every day and many of them free (which I believe has been the greatest development in these twenty years). I find it all very exciting.
So, I appreciate the concerns about safety, about misuse and about the potential to corrupt and destroy. But I feel that overall, in twenty years, it has been a force for good and has opened up doors of opportunity for many. I believe that the next twenty years can only be more exciting than the first twenty years have been.
Thank you Tim for giving the world this amazing gift… I raise my glass to you and your offspring on this twentieth birthday.
- Berners-Lee Wants Free, Low-Bandwidth Mobile Data (nytimes.com)
- Internet disconnection ‘like being imprisoned’, says Sir Tim Berners-Lee (telegraph.co.uk)