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30 today | Happy birthday to the World Wide Web



      • On 12 March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for a new information management system connecting documents held across multiple computers at CERN, where he worked as a contractor.
      • "Vague but exciting," was the response of his supervisor, scrawled on the cover of the document.
      • It turned out to be a laconic greeting for an invention which would transform the world's economy - and its society too.
      • Whether or not those changes have been for better or worse isn't really clear, but the scale of the changes have been remarkable.
      • Here are 30 of the best and worst things about how the web has changed our world

      • 1 - E-commerce
      • Or: Using the web to buy and sell stuff
      • The positives of E-commerce are obvious.
      • Today we can buy pretty much anything we want online, and have it delivered straight to our front doors. From auction sites through to cheap retail outlets, from clothes to pizza, the ability for us to shop online has generated an enormous amount of economic activity and afforded shoppers far more time to enjoy their lives. It means we can get rid of the old and de-clutter or rediscover a forgotten part of your past.

      • 2 - Gaming
      • Or: Using the web to play online
      • For some, video games are just a casual hobby.
      • To others they are a burgeoning art form which is now easily collaborated on by like-minded developers across the world, sold by similarly specialist games labels, and downloaded and played by gamers on an international scale, all thanks to the wonders of the web.
      • E-sports offer the most committed players the opportunity of celebrity while emotionally-charged independent games such as Papers, Please have been lauded for introducing moral decisions as a powerful feature of the narrative.Neither would have been feasible without the web.
      • 3 - News Websites
      • Or: Using the web instead of paying for a paper
      • News websites are very convenient.
      • There was a time when we had to unfold a small gazebo covering in order to find out what was happening in the world around us. News websites make that process much easier. These sites are almost all free, lowering the bar to access material which is in the public interest. They mean that all of us have quicker access to the big stories which affect our lives. However, the way in which we now consume journalism - through social media for example - means that despite being more informed than ever before, there is now a constant battle against misinformation and "fake news".
      • 4 - Social Media
      • Or: Using the web to update friends, share photos and document life's biggest milestones
      • There's nothing quite like social media - there're nothing we could compare it with from 30 years ago. Internet forums and bulletin boards existed before the web, but social media is a wholly web-owned phenomenon. These are websites where the content which users turn up for is created by the users themselves. Then, those same users' interactions with that content and each other generates data which the social media platform monetises via targeted advertisements. It has been used for harassment, self-promotion, interfering in democratic elections, crowd-funding medical treatments, beginning relationships and ending careers.
      • 5 - Billionaires
      • The likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk would never be household names if it weren't for the web, but the web hasn't just made new billionaires, it's also made billionaires new. Sociologists have long postulated about why people seem to gently worship the wealthy. Entire political ideologies have been formed around this relationship between the wealthy and the ordinary. But the wealthiest people in the world are now accessible. The mysteries of their wealth laid bare.
      • 6 - Online Dating
      • We're not just talking about apps here, but the ability to interact with thousands of strangers a day who are seeking the same thing you are - all without going through the inefficient process of meeting you in the flesh first. Critics say that online dating has driven a "swipe left" culture in which partners are disposable and meaningful relationships are transitory. Proponents say that online dating has driven a "swipe right" culture in which partners are flexible and meaningful relationships are more likely to be natural, rather than being based on a fondness driven by familiarity. Of course, there are many who think nothing much has changed at all when it comes to human sexuality - except we've had to wear it on our sleeves a bit more.
      • 7 - Memes
      • Memes are the definitive artefact of web culture, even if the word itself has become nothing more than a euphemism for jokes. While it was first proposed to mean a kind of cognitive information which spread from person to person, memes are now viral items of content which drive tagging and expression within a variety of exceptionally creative formats. They are inherently representative of web culture being endlessly reproducible, modifiable, and usually dependent upon some form of intellectual property theft.
      • 8 - Email
      • Sifting through thousands of emails can be exhausting. And technically, they're not even part of the web - the protocol they work on, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), is completely different from the protocol used by the web - the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). But really, we all receive too many of them.

      • 9 - Viral content
      • This can be anything from an article or a video to a photograph or a GIF that spreads online at a rapid pace. Website links, social media and even messaging apps can put pretty much anything that follows the formula on to our screens. Entertainment value, usefulness, artistic merit and shock value can all contribute to what the web wants to go viral. Early examples include one of YouTube's most viewed videos - Charlie Bit My Finger.
      • 10 – Smartphones
      • Most people today now carry the World Wide Web in their pockets -wherever they go - following the advent of the smartphone. They have changed the way we get directions, how we choose to eat, and how we communicate with the world. Apple's first iPhone changed the market forever, with earlier smartphones offering just email and basic web browsing. The device changed the way phones would look, felt and operated.
      • 11 - Video streaming
      • Once upon a time, videos had to be downloaded in their entirety before they could be watched. It took a lot of software engineers a lot of work to develop a system that allowed videos to be streamed or watched at the same time as they were downloaded. At a mouse click, we have access to thousands of video tutorials on almost every conceivable subject, and documentaries about the rest. Video streaming has given us memes, rejuvenated the music video and changed the way we think about television.
      • 12 - Pornography
      • Humans have been producing pornography for as long as they were capable of producing images, that's an archaeological fact. But it certainly wasn't until the invention of the web that we realised how much of a consumer market there was for explicit material. The enormous amount of pornographic content available has inevitably exposed children to adult activities, but it has also allowed adults to explore their sexuality in a way previous generation couldn't. This may be set to change in the UK, where websites which are more than one-third pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under a new law.
      • 13 - Activism & 14 - Slacktivism
      • Online petitions are not the same thing as political action or protest. Despite this, petitions have become a very prominent and common method of engaging politically, and doing so without having to leave home. In contrast to this "slacktivism" however are a range of political movements which have grown straight out of online protests, most notably including  #MeToo following a news article regarding allegations of sexual assaults by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein - which he denies.
      • 15 - Music business
      • Revenues for the music industry dropped from $14.6bn (£11.1bn) in 1999 to $6.3bn (£4.8bn) in 2009.  Nowadays, services like Spotify and Apple Music are bringing that figure higher again - although there are plenty of questions about how well artists are getting paid.  The way that artists are listened to as well is also having an impact on the kinds of music they're recording. 
      • As musicians are paid per listen and getting a song on a playlist is more likely to win a musician more listens, bands are adding acoustic versions of their hit songs to get additional listens on acoustic playlists.
      • 16 - Selfie culture
      • While many would dispute whether someone taking a picture of themselves is narcissistic, it is probably fair to acknowledge that self-portraits existed before the web. But social media and technological advances in smartphone cameras have made the modern selfie a part of everyday life.