Happy Birthday World Wide Web!
Today is the 30 year mark since the first proposal for what became the world wide web (aka. “The Internet”), as we know it today. Just like a human being during its life span, the web has been through its own ups and downs, but I think it would be hard to argue against the notion that the web is going down in the history books as one of the mankind’s greatest achievements.
Looking back to all the progress that has been made ‘online’, it makes me realize that we are such a lucky generation to be living in the early days of a true global community. The web has amplified the rate of progress in our communities and has played a pivotal role in major social, financial and cultural shifts across the globe. It has brought us closer together and has made cheap access to technology a reality. And this progress does not seem to be slowing down at all, rather I would argue that it is growing at an almost exponential scale.
However, just like most other technologies the web has had its fair share of unintended and/or undesirable consequences. From the rising number of online scamming and hacking incidents to the proliferation of fake news and viral mis-information campaigns, it is clearly evident that the web is no where near perfect (and it might never be). However, I believe it is in the spirit of greater good for humanity, that we as a global community need to tackle these shortcomings together with the best of our intentions in the coming years.
I personally think that as of today, the web needs a shift within its incentive mechanisms so as to make sure that businesses online do not sacrifice the basic human rights of privacy and freedom for their own short-term profits. This might mean overhauling the current business models and revenues streams that are prevalent today. This might also lead to breaking up and democratizing the ‘soft infrastructure’ that supports the web today in the coming years too. Another goal that needs to be addressed is that of open and uncensored global access to the web for all. Almost half the world is online today and I think we need to make sure that the rest of the half has the same sort of opportunity for access to this piece of technology. On top of that we need to make sure that censorship and malicious intent, either from the governments, companies or other groups/individuals, is tackled properly. Finally, I think we as community need to redesign the way we interact online, since most of the unpleasant and undesired discourses/incidents in online communities tend to be favored by the way our current interactions are orchestrated from a systems design perspective. As a whole I think we need to incentivize a more inclusive, responsible and equal approach to how the web progresses further.
I understand that there might not be clear cut answers here but humans have a good track record when it comes to agreeing on fundamental issues in the face of extreme crisis. And in the same spirit, the World Wide Web Foundation is currently leading the charge with a Contract for the Web, which is aimed at being “the guiding star for the way forward as we move towards a more mature, responsible and inclusive future on the web”.
I encourage you to go through Sir Tim’s message for the web on this milestone today. Also check out the current outline of the Contract for the Web and do add your support #ForTheWeb!!