25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee opened the World Wide Web to all who wished to access it. It seems an incredibly short time ago considering what the internet does for us today, but the date is already referred to as Internaut (a combination of internet and astronaut) Day, and celebrates the people who use the internet worldwide.
The World Wide Web, though not always easy to explain, allows instant access to content and information, meaning people can communicate across the world. Originally developed to allow automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world, since being made available to everyone it has led to platforms such as Yahooo, Amazon, Ebay, AOL, Google, iTunes, myspace, facebook, Youtube and Twitter, with countless social media platforms having come and gone along the way. There are at least one billion websites on the World Wide Web, and humanity as a whole composes 7,300 tweets, completes 56,000 google searches, and sends 2.5 million emails, per second. Most students have never experienced life without it, and for those of us who have grown up in the internet age, it has made the world around us fast and ever changing; turning us into a generation who enjoy ever changing trends as opposed to lifelong passions, with once traditional hobbies replaced by the internet and whatever latest thing it has to offer.
The World Wide Web means we live in a world where we wait for nothing, be it information, communication with friends and family, deliveries of online shopping, or work.
Yet beyond this it is hard to pin down the impact the World Wide Web has had. Clay Shirky, a philosopher who studies the effects of the internet of society, says “the Internet has so permeated our lives that its influence is becoming impossible to see.” It is difficult to imagine a world today without it, because were we not to have it, not only would we not know what we were missing, but we would likely have made other advancements in its place.
One thing we can say for sure is that the World Wide Web means we live in a world where we wait for nothing, be it information, communication with friends and family, deliveries of online shopping, or work. It has granted us access to almost everything, whether by means of instant information or online ordering. As such, even if Sir Tim-Berners Lee didn’t envisage a world of click bait, trolls and cat images, there’s no denying that the World Wide Web has changed the world for the better. It has quickly overtaken and overshadowed some of the greatest inventions in the decades before it, such as television and the telephone, often replaced by streaming and online messaging.
There have always been, and always will be, negatives around it. Warnings such as dangers of the internet, internet nonsense and don’t believe what you read online will always exist; but the internet, like most advancements in technology and society, simply facilitate human behaviour, and reflect it, rather than instantly changing it. People will point out how facets of the World Wide Web can brings thousands, even millions of negative opinions and views together, but it can also bring together two shared interests hundreds of miles apart, and the World Wide Web, like most thing, is as good as the people that use it. In this regard, there’ll be plenty of people who hope that in the coming years the World Wide Web, like any twenty-five year old, can continue to mature, become a bit more sensible, stop being a nuisance and focus on how it can be a help to the world around it. It’s hard to know if this will happen, or where the internet will go, but there’s a beauty in knowing that just as it has been since Sir Tim Berners-Lee made it public, it will be those who are using it that decide.