Reflections on the World Wide Web as it turns 30
As the World Wide Web turns 30, its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, has laid out his thoughts on what it has evolved into and what he hopes to expect from it in the future. Though Berners-Lee expressed dismay at some of the unfavorable ways in which the web is used these days, he conveyed a sense of optimism in its future and indicated that we have the power to change it for the better.
Three major flaws currently plaguing the web as outlined by Berners-Lee are “deliberate, malicious intent” such as cybercrime, hacking, and online harassment; “system design that creates perverse incentives” such as the ad revenue systems that monetarily reward clickbait; and other “unintended negative consequences of benevolent design” that can lead to potentially damaging discourse.
In order to ameliorate these dysfunctions, Berners-Lee calls on governments to translate laws into the digital age and enforce regulations that are in the best interest of protecting the fundamental human rights and security of internet users. He also calls on citizens to hold companies accountable and to elect government officials who will defend their online privacy rights. He admits that the process to change the web for the better going forward into its next 30 years won’t be easy, but he remains optimistic that after the web’s “digital adolescence,” we can collectively work towards a “more mature, responsible, and inclusive future” for the web.
Just like anyone one of us, the World Wide Web certainly endured some growing pains in its first three decades, with its 20’s being a bit of a roller-coaster. The boundless potential of the web has helped humans to achieve things we could have never imagined possible a mere 30 years ago.
Our means of communication, entertainment, conducting business, networking, and gathering information have been completely and radically altered by the World Wide Web. The web has given us the ability to remain easily connected to loved ones, keep in touch with friends, seamlessly conduct business with anyone in the world from anywhere in the world, easily help those in need, learn about anything and everything, and has kept us entertained with access to limitless amounts of music, TV, and movies.
One the other hand, the web has opened the door wide open for a new breed of criminal who aim to take advantage of its potential. The sheer magnitude of personal information shared on the web on a daily basis is almost unfathomable, and hackers and cybercriminals use the power of the web to do whatever they can to compromise that private data for their own personal gain.
Although the power of the World Wide Web presents a double-edged sword, there is reason to share in Brenners-Lee’s optimism for the future of his creation. People are beginning to understand the risks involved with such a potent medium and how to protect themselves from those risks.
Government officials around the globe are increasingly using their influence and deploying resources to help push forward regulations that hold companies accountable for the ways in which they collect and process consumer data. The rising tide of cyber criminality, data breaches, and overall online privacy incidents over the past few years needs to be reined in, and it appears as though meaningful action towards this is finally starting to take shape.
We not only have the power to change the web for the better over the course of the next thirty years, but we also have an obligation to do so. The World Wide Web has had a wild first three decades but hopefully, we can work together to ensure its thirties and beyond are a bit more settled.