25 Years Later, The World Wide Web

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The 12th of March is not a normal day as any other, it’s the day someone built the most important technological revolution of the last two thousand years. I am talking about Tim Barners Lee, an english physicists who, while working at CERN, built an easier way to access data and files. A simple system that was running on a Next computer soon became the World Wide Web. An intricate net of servers which share information world wide.

25 years later, we look back and realise how much innovation and change the web has brought. It’s remarkable to see the multi billion dollar businesses that have been built on a single innovation. It’s remarkable to see the way people are connected today and the information that they can share. My parents’ generation was used to meet new people and then forget about them if they didn’t live in the same city, have their phone number or address.

In the web 2.0, we don’t need these “old fashioned” details anymore. We just need a Facebook account or more simply an email address. If I visit Russia and meet two nice people, I can be connected to them for the rest of my life and I know that I can rely on them, whenever I want, because the internet will always be there.

There is no more space for hiding things or not telling the truth to the people; governments have been forced to evolve and that’s why these last years, where we have seen a peak in social media usage, revolutions have taken place and new parties, in civilised countries, such as Italy, have used the power of the internet to get more than 25% of the seats in the national parliament.

First Web Server 1024x768 25 Years Later, The World Wide Web

We don’t need books anymore, what we need today is a connection to the internet. In places where bringing dozens of books would have been impossible, today, thanks to the usage of the internet, people can learn how to read, write and even study what they like. That’s why it’s so important to have nonprofit organisations such as One Laptop Per Child and even Internet.org, which we still criticise.

Occidental countries have two main responsibilities 25 years later. The first one is to keep the web as a free and open space, where everyone can express his personality and where organisations, such as the NSA, can not interfere with what we do. The second is to bring the World Wide Web in places where people still don’t know what it is. It feels so strange to think that after 25 years, this revolution hasn’t taken place in determined areas of Africa or Asia, but this is the truth and we need to solve this problem.

As Tim Barners Lee recalls in a blog post published on Google’s official blog:

So today is a day to celebrate. But it’s also an occasion to think, discuss—and do. Key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet are looming, and it’s vital for all of us to speak up for the web’s future. How can we ensure that the other 60 percent around the world who are not connected get online fast? How can we make sure that the web supports all languages and cultures, not just the dominant ones? How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public? These are some of my questions—what are yours?

The web needs to stay free and open. That’s why in modern democracies, the access of the web should be guaranteed by governments. However we need to fight to keep this tool as open as possible. If organisations or governments start censoring the web, it will become just another tool to control people and prevent them from thinking and critically analysing what surrounds them.

It’s positive to see large corporation, such as Google and Facebook, that are part of this revolution and that are innovating on the web; but even them are responsible to keep the web open. There wouldn’t be a web without these twos, that’s why they play a critical role in the openness of the internet and they have to respect the “don’t be evil” Google’s motto.

In the next years, we expect to see the raise of organisations such as Wikileaks, that are fundamental, political movements, born on the internet, a Web 3.0 and the access to the web, given to every single human being. It’s a long journey and we are not even half way, but that’s probably why it makes it so interesting.

Edoardo Moreni

Blogger, Political Activist, Computer Scientist and Italian.