“Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked. Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which everything could be linked to everything,” mused a 33-year-old English software engineer one day. This musing by Sir Tim Berners-Lee paved the way for the invention of the World Wide Web, a creation which recently reached hit its 30-year milestone.
I’m not going to bore you with detailed explanations of what the World Wide Web is (hint: you’re using it!), its history or how it vastly differs from the Internet. The short version is that the Internet is a global network of networks while the Web is an application used to navigate said network.
In light of the Web’s 30th anniversary, we decided to celebrate by taking a jaunt down memory lane and rounding up 10 – a mere handful – of our favorite things the World Wide Web has given us untethered access to.
1. Cat videos
If the Internet had an official mascot, it would be a cat. There are over two million cat-centric videos on YouTube alone and over 6.5 billion cat pictures on the net. And why not? Cat videos have proven to lower stress and increase happiness. Plus, they’re cute AF.
2. Social media
What initially started off as platforms – Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Livejournal, Tumblr, Twitter – for sharing simple thoughts and moments, quickly grew to become powerful tools in today’s public sphere. Breaking news, petitions, social commentary, campaigns… this is but one level. Communities have sprung up too ranging from the likes of widely-accepted health nuts to even more obscure ones like ASMRotica.
3. Online dating
A curveball in the dating world, no doubt. OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Muzmatch, Bumble, Grindr, Tinder – these sites have ushered in an age of easier dating. Sure, it might not be the meet-cute you hoped for but it does a far better job of weeding out the assbutts than catching a stranger’s eye across a crowded floor.
4. Online shopping
Amazon is the first site that comes to mind but the general experience of finding and buying whatever you desire with a few flicks, swipes and taps was a revolutionary experience when it was first introduced. What can’t you buy online these days? And bonus – you get to do it while in your PJs!
5. Google Maps
How people managed to get around anywhere before Google Maps is baffling to me. The ease with which we’re now able to navigate the world has opened up new paths, and kept me from getting lost down many a road. No longer do we need to ponder over splayed-out maps with a compass in hand, marking down routes, or worrying about owning the latest, updated editions.
Admittedly, emails have been around longer than the World Wide Web. Since 1972 to be exact. However, the email of then was a tad different than the email of now. Not only is it a quick and efficient way of communicating but it keeps you from having to talk to people on the phone. And let’s be honest, no one enjoys that.
“Wikipedia is not accepted as a reliable source,” said every teacher/professor I’ve ever had. With good reason, of course, as information can be easily edited on the free encyclopedia. Though that still doesn’t stop students and alike to use it as a starting point, considering how detailed the information provided is.
8. New vocabulary
Internet slang, netspeak, online lingo – call it what you please. The Web birthed a new vocabulary which has crept into the official language books and everyday vernacular. LOL, AF, IDK, YOLO, FML, IMHO, IRL, NSFW… the list goes on.
They’re the viral pick-me-ups we all need during the day. From ironic to existential to sardonic and down-right dark, memes have also become a way to connect with a person without actually connecting. Personally, if my friends don’t receive memes from me in a while, they’ll know something is wrong. It’s touching.
10. A platform for marginalized voices
IMHO, one of the best things that the World Wide Web has brought to us is a universal platform for all voices. And oh how many there are! There is representation around every corner, albeit some more so than others, but with the power of the Web, new perspectives and voices are being added every day. You don’t have to look beyond The Tempest’s own pages for that.
We’ve definitely come a long way in the past 30 years, but where are we headed to now? There are plenty of issues that have spawned but to give up now, after three decades, would be defeatist. Let us hang on to the good times past, celebrate the ones of today, and work on creating better ones for tomorrow.