THIRTY YEARS AGO today, the world changed forever.
A paper by a CERN researcher, entitled "Information Management: A Proposal" gave colleagues their first look at the most pervasive technology in the world, possibly in history.
That man was Tim Berners-Lee, and the proposal was for what we now know as the "world wide web".
A year later, Berners-Lee created the first web browser, which was recently made available as a web app, and the web was born.
The technique that really made the web possible was the marriage of his idea with the existing Hypertext standard to form the HTTP protocol which is still in use today.
In an open letter to mark the occasion, Mr Berners-Lee made a fairly damaging assessment of his creation, 30 years on, warning: "I'm very concerned about nastiness and misinformation spreading."
Citing the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a turning point for the people's relationship with the web, he pointed to the biggest three dangers facing web users today - malicious activity, business models that reward clickbait, and unintended consequences such as aggression and angry discourse, but warned that tackling them would require all parties to act.
"We need open web champions within government - civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web," he wrote.
Berners-Lee is currently working with the Web Foundation on a 'Contract For The Web' which, if adopted, would protect 'governments, companies and citizens' from the dark side of the connected world.
"Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age," he explains. "They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people's rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government — civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web."
So, as we enter the fourth decade of the world wide web, we have to accept that there's more at stake than Nyan Nyan Cat and Insta-posts of Kim Kardashian's arse (and we're not talking about Kayne).
But we'll let the founder of the feast have the last word:
"The web is for everyone and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won't be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want." μ
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