The World Wide Web turns 25, but not without its growing pains
Twenty-five years ago, Tim Berners-Lee filed his proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, and changed the way we access information forever.
A lot has happened over the last 25 years – the Soviet Union fell, multiple wars occurred in the Persian Gulf and a person can connect with someone on the other side of the world at the click of a button. The latter development, which emerged because of the Internet, has revolutionized the entire world, in both a literal and figurative sense.
Today, the way we do business, market products, interact with friends and engage with the media are all radically different than they were 25 years ago, when Berners-Lee first set out to create a global interconnected network of computers. Facebook, for instance, acts as both a place for people to create profiles and connect with one another, along with a forum for businesses to act with current and potential clients. Further, people can access a wealth of information to further educate themselves and others, through collaborative projects like Wikipedia.
The Web is growing up
Berners-Lee had no way of knowing what his proposal have in store for the next quarter century.
"[T]he Web has changed the world in ways that I never could have imagined," he wrote in a blog post for his World Wide Web Foundation. "There have been many exciting advances. It has generated billions of dollars in economic growth, turned data into the gold of the 21st century, unleashed innovation in education and healthcare, whittled away geographic and social boundaries, revolutionized the media, and forced a reinvention of politics in many countries by enabling constant two-way dialogue between the rulers and the ruled."
Twitter, Facebook, the Arab Spring and other events surely would look much different today if not for the World Wide Web. As more and more people log on, the possibility for innovation grows. However, The Internet's rise to maturity has not come without its growing pains, and these are sure to dictate the progression of the Internet for the next 25 years.
We all had our issues growing up. Be it fights with parents or friends, or even the occasional existential crisis about how we want to shape our future, these issues are certainly no stranger to the World Wide Web.
While many people log onto the Internet everyday, around 65 percent of the world still cannot access the web. There are numerous reasons as to why this is the case. A lack of infrastructure, and access to computers, political turmoil and the outright blocking of online capabilities are all hindering people's access to the Internet.
In some cases, governments and other ruling parties are restricting access for its citizens like in Iran and China. This means that the majority of the world is not able to freely use the resources that the World Wide Web can provide. For the Internet to be truly "World Wide," it needs to be accessible to everyone.
Tracking data and surveillance
Another major issue that has emerged is data tracking and surveillance. Edward Snowden's NSA leaks revealed that the U.S. government, along with other world governments, have been using cyberspace to effectively spy on its users.
Data tracking is complicated topic because it can be used by companies like Google to better cater searches to user preferences, but can also be used to monitor user activity. What was alarming about the Edward Snowden leaks was just how extensive the monitoring policies are, but their implications are manifesting in other parts of the world.
Numerous bloggers are jailed in countries like China and Iran for being critical of the very governments that are tracking them. While the Internet allows them to get their ideas out, it is also leading them to see extensive jail time and in worse cases, even death.
Much has changed with the World Wide Web, but there is still a long ways to go as the tool enters into adulthood.