Today marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the internet as we know it. "In 1989 the world's largest physics laboratory, CERN, was a hive of ideas and information stored on multiple incompatible computers," CERN explains today.
Tim Berners-Lee envisioned a unifying structure for linking information across different computers, and wrote a proposal in March 1989 called 'Information Management: A Proposal'. By 1991 this vision of universal connectivity had become the World Wide Web.
For the record, the internet and the web aren't technically the same. Internet refers to "the global network of computers that are able to communicate with one another and dates back to the US military's ARPANET developed in the 60s," as The Verge notes. "The web, meanwhile, is the public's main way of accessing this network, and was proposed by Berners-Lee in the late 80s."
In 1993, CERN issued a statement putting the Web into the public domain, ensuring that it would act as an open standard.
The move had an immediate effect on the spread of the Web.#web30 #ForTheWeb https://t.co/gz5Y4IBJDL pic.twitter.com/VKWNHtVq6N
— CERN (@CERN) March 12, 2019
Today, Tim Berners-Lee and CERN are leading celebrations and discussion in honor of the web's three decades—and in contemplation of where we go from here. Right now, the web is still in a troubled "digital adolesence," Berners-Lee said, but we're on a journey toward "a more mature, responsible and inclusive future."
Meanwhile, many folks are reflecting on their earliest web experiences and how things have changed in the past 30 years. "Reports of the web's death are exaggerated," argues Klint Finley at Wired.
Obviously, the spirit of early web culture was much different than today—more free, sure, but also way less wide. Expansion to an ever-growing number of people and an ever-growing segment of our lives has made old phrases like IRL (for the kids, that's "in real life"—something people used to consider separate from web culture) obsolete. Meanwhile, "context collapse" has taken on whole new meanings and proportions.
We hope that everyone is having as much fun celebrating #Web30 as we are!
Also, a quick reminder that…
Web ? Internet pic.twitter.com/44GfPsv15x
— The Web Foundation (@webfoundation) March 12, 2019
It's tempting to look around at Twitter outrage cycles, congressional censorship designs on social media, seemingly arbitrary bans by web companies, and all the other negative features of today's world wide web and conclude that we've been backsliding. But I think this shows a little historical revisionism—after all, congressional censorship designs on the digital have always been strong, and while outrage culture may be more participatory than ever, so is the backlash against it. Tech platforms that started radical may have gone establishment, but their early spirit is alive and vital among newer platforms, especially encrypted technology companies. Sex workers may face increasing state micromanagement of their tech use, but they're also able disseminate their messages directly and worldwide like never before—a paradox that holds true for many marginalized communities and can be huge for breaking through the bullshit narratives constructed by the self-interested and powerful.
It's a mixed bag here, is what I'm saying. We've got a lot to celebrate, and a lot of work to do. In that spirit, here's some of Reason's coverage of digital culture highs and lows:
- How Privatization and Competition Freed the Web and Made the Modern World Possible (Milton Mueller, 2016)
- Cyber Seducers? The latest on-line outrage (Julie DeFalco, 1996)
- Wild, Wild Web: In cyberspace, copyright infringement is only a click away (Mike Godwin, 1998)
- An Army of Bloggers (Dave Weigel, 2006)
- The Cyberpunk Future That Wasn't (Jesse Walker, 2016)
- alt.fans: The internet is recapitulating science fiction fandom (Gregory Benford, 1996)
- One Year Ago Today, the FCC Killed the Internet (Eric Boehm, 2018)
- Farewell to Warblogging (Matt Welch, 2006)
- How to Break the Internet (Geoffrey A. Manne & R. Ben Sperry, 2015)
- Fighting the Net Nannies (Rick Henderson, 1996)
- Regulating Bloggers (Julian Sanchez, 2006)
- Personal Encryption 101 (Elizabeth Nolan Brown, 2018)
- Making Encryption Safe, Legal, and Not Rare (Rick Henderson, 2006)
- Cyberspace's Legal Visionary (Jesse Walker interviews Lawrence Lessig, 2002)
- The European Union Wants to Control the Internet—and You (Andrea O'Sullivan, 2018)
- Free Culture Versus Big Media (David Post, 2004)
- The Iranian Revolution Will Be Tweeted (Michael Moynihan, 2009)
- The Internet Makes Life Better and Safer for Sex Workers (Elizabeth Nolan Brown, 2018)
- Tech Delusions: Why the $100 laptop should come equipped with a gift receipt (Kerry Howley, 2005)
- The EU Wants to Censor 'Terrorist Content' Online. What Could Go Wrong? (Andrea O'Sullivan, 2019)
- Why online betting can't be stopped—and why Washington shouldn't bother trying (Nick Gillespie, 1999)
- Virtually Free: An online world embraces regulation (Wagner James Au, 2008)
- Last Year Saw 'Furthest-Reaching Attempt to Censor Online Speech' Since the 1990s, Say FOSTA Challengers (Elizabeth Nolan Brown, 2019)
- Music for Nothing: Why Napster isn't the end of the world, or even the music industry (Jesse Walker, 2000)
- Is Second Life's Libertarian Experiment Over? (Katherine Mangu-Ward, 2008)
- How Blockchain Can Build Trust—and Reduce Government's Power: Podcast (Nick Gillespie, 2018)
- Facebook Freakout (Katherine Mangu-Ward, 2009)
- Technology Is At the Center: Peter Thiel on liberty and scientific progress (Ron Bailey, 2008)
• Millennial presidential candidates have arrived. This could get intereresting.
"Some people think all there is to us is avocado toast or eating Tide Pods or whatever they're saying about us. But we're the generation with the most at stake. Our asses were out there in Afghanistan and Iraq and I think we've earned place in this conversation."—@PeteButtigieg pic.twitter.com/xmrG6R5snn
— VICE News (@vicenews) March 11, 2019
• Again and again and…
Seattle police say they "rescued" 26 women from human trafficking and yet none of the alleged perpetrators of this human trafficking have been charged with human trafficking. Verrrry curious. https://t.co/pTjMb8sxNZ
— Katie Herzog (@kittypurrzog) March 11, 2019
• A friendly reminder, in response to recent panic-mongering:
Let's just say this, really slowly this time:
1. That's not how fentanyl works.
2. If you can administer naloxone to yourself, YOU'RE NOT EXPERIENCING AN OD.
3. Panic attacks by LE and responders are real and the result of this exact kind of nonsense. Let's actually address that. https://t.co/OiLGh1c9CB
— Keith Brown (@keithbrownph) March 10, 2019