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The web at 30: the cappuccino years

The web at 30: the cappuccino years Wikipedia

Today is the 30th birthday of the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee's creation has, like an A-list celebrity with a secret heroin addition, enjoyed massive success but is not without its massive and rather fundamental flaws.

The Web in and of itself has delivered massive commercial success for both businesses and people. A static website, Wikipedia, put paid to Microsoft Encarta very early on. Dynamically-rendered websites, of course, have enabled applications as diverse as online banking, price comparison, and property / estate agent services - none of which would have happened otherwise, and are fundamentally altering our lives.

Of course, we don't need to tell you any of this. You are probably reading this through a web browser anyway. As Tim famously said in the opening sequence to the London 2012 Olympics, ​this is for everyone​.

​Berners-Lee is, however, rightly concerned about its future. As he told the ​Guardian:

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."

He also doesn't want it to stand still. Solid is a new venture, led by Berners-Lee, which is designed to re-architect how the web works. Rather than storing your data in others' servers, you store your own data in a sort of P2P matrix, and then confirm which applications can use it. In theory this is great, and is similar to how similar applications such as Maidsafe work. However, such is the prevalence of the web as we know it, that it's going to be very much an uphill struggle before we see any radical change - as much as we would like it to happen.

Perhaps the best way to push change through is to change what the web is about. Berners-Lee rightly expresses his nerves about fake news (although we are all rather late to the party there); so perhaps some quick-and-simple ways to improve the web are to:

  1. Kill below-article comments. As is evidenced on YouTube, the Daily Mail, Yahoo, BBC News and elsewhere, they are a pit of eternal fire. There is ​absolutely nothing positive​ about them, and simply exist for digital managers' stats (user session durations and interactions). Kill them stone fucking dead.
  2. The elimination of Facebook, which as a company and a product is simply horrible. In years to come, we will look back on the Facebook era with sadness that we let it become so pervasive. 
  3.  Stop the stupid browser wars, by encouraging Google to donate Chromium development to either Apache or the W3C. Even Microsoft is to adopt Chromium in its next version of Edge; it's now up to Apple to follow suit.
  4. Ban all auto-playing multimedia.
  5. Re-establish accessibility credentials. As society becomes more enlightened towards disability, re-engage with producers in a way that the WCAG "AAA" guidelines did in the early 2000s.

Nothing is perfect, but for the cyberculture types amongst us who saw the web as being the path to a new Renaissance in the early 1990s, that vision and dream needs to come back - and come back strongly. This is not dismissive of the freedom to publish, of course - but perhaps now is the time to reconsider as to whether the web is a mirror of society, or whether it's now the other way around.

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