Reason Roundup

The World Wide Web Just Won't Grow Up. Good?: Reason Roundup

Plus: Reason web-culture coverage past...introducing the millennial presidential candidate...another Seattle "sex trafficking" case based on nonsense



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."

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.

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:


• Millennial presidential candidates have arrived. This could get intereresting.

• Again and again and…

• A friendly reminder, in response to recent panic-mongering: