Thursday, January 11, 2007

Get educated about the Web...damnit!

I don't mean to get too serious about topics but this one is a bit different. I've been meaning to write about the medium that allows me and million other computer geeks to post their thoughts on websites. The World Wide Web--or the "Internet" as many people refer to it although incorrectly (more on that later)--is this medium.

Where did the World Wide Web come from? Did it appear out of nowhere? Did Al Gore create it? The graphical interface--or web browser and all its components--that we all use everyday was mostly created by a man named Tim Berners-Lee. Who in the hell is that you might ask?

He is a scientist who worked at CERN. While an independent contractor at CERN from June to December 1980, Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext (those links that you click on when your surfing the web) to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers.

Fast forward more than a decade...On August 6, 1991, the very first website was put online by Berners-Lee. He made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium later decided that their standards must be based on royalty-free technology, so they can be easily adopted by anyone. In other words, he hasn't made a dime on his invention of the World Wide Web.

Think of these profit figures from 2005 when your ordering something on or Ebay or some other site. Ebay: $4.25 Billion, Yahoo: $1.1 Billion, Amazon: $8.5 Billion. Of the almost $14 Billion in revenue from just these 3 companies, the creator of the World Wide Web gets nothing.

What really annoys me is that most people who have no concept of where all of this internet stuff came from commonly interchange the words "Internet" and "Web" thinking that mean the same thing. Let's straighten this out now. The Internet--a connection via cables between computers--has been around since the late 60s. The four individuals who are credited with the development of the internet are Lawrence G. Roberts, Leonard Kleinrock, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf. (Google these names sometime and read all about these guys)

Conversely, the World Wide Web is a global information medium which users can look up information, sendd email or whatever with computers CONNECTED TO the Internet. The Web operates OVER the internet. They are NOT one in the same. Incidentally, this guy below created the usage of the "@" symbol in email addresses.

So when your on your computer checking out the latest news, scores, stocks or buying a record player to play those old 45s, remember the individuals who are responsible for this wonderful technology.

The web is in its infancy similar to where electricity was, say around 1910 or 1920. As much as the Web is used today especially by the younger generation, society as a whole still hasn't embraced the Web. Dare I say, many people are still scared of it even after a good decade of growth. Look how many people don't trust their computer to make bank transactions. But mark my words. In the next 20 or 30 years, we will perceive the Web like we do electricity now. It will be as second nature as flipping on a light switch. Just wait and see!