Yesterday, the World Wide Web celebrated its 20th birthday.
It was born on August 6, 1991 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee launched the first webpage in history.
Now it’s official: the Web is not a teenager anymore!
But it will be one more year (at least in the U.S.) before it reaches the “legal drinking” age.
So, technically, the Web is still under-aged.
Looking at the endless examples of dubious content found online, especially the angry comment-sections on Youtube videos, newspapers and other forms of “debate”, the signs of adolescence are still in full bloom. No need to spell them out here.
In fact, its total sum of interpersonal skills sometimes seems to amount to little more than the act of knocking action figures and cars together while making explosion sounds.
And yet, the effect the Web has had on our lives so far in terms of information-sharing and free expression is far from childish.
Also it has been as uncontrollable and unpredictable like a street kid, engaging in juvenile crimes, opposing authority and wreaking general havoc wherever it went.
To some people, especially politicians and statesmen of the more conventional kind, this behavior ought to be restrained.
And it’s not like they want to do it for purely educational purposes. There’s a lot at stake!
The Wunderkind Bubble
When the Web was first discovered by investors and business people they saw in it a Wunderkind. They invested and rallied for the new “e” revolution, enraged by blind glee like a couple of elderly ladies obsessing about a new-born.
What they didn’t know was that the Web was no peach-skinned baby no more but a snot-nosed toddler, already.
And when the “Oh, isn’t she cuuute?!!” bubble popped, people lost a lot of money, promising themselves to be more realistic andresponsible next time.
Nowadays, no government can run without the Web. Even repressive regimes are heavily invested in it, treating the Web as a reliableinfrastructure for conducting their day-to-day business.
But where radio, TV and newspaper could be easily controlled and relied upon to mirror every dictator’s words into the farthest reaches of the Hinterland without alteration, the Web talks back! All the time!
It takes a lot of effort to supervise it around the clock because it moves so fast. It’s nowhere and everywhere at the same time, stealing car-keys behind their backs and spraying walls with its authority-defying and often misspelled messages.
And at the same time it can’t be fully locked down because without it, business and organizational structures would collapse.
This is the reason why some statesmen want the Web to grow up! Grown-ups are more predictable, more easily shooed and shushed by promising rewards or threatening punishments.
But what does that mean for the Web?
Will it find a job, wear a suit, marry, settle down and have babies one day?
Is it even possible to extract the adolescent mischief from its psyche? Maybe 20 years from now it will still be playing with its action-figures, living in a basement somewhere.
Or perhaps it will really become the dream of some governments one day: a role-model for good conduct and an overall respectable citizen…
What do you think?
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