Thirty years ago, today, the world changed forever. It wasn’t because of a loud, bloody war, or major political shifts, but because of a quiet tapping in a little room in Geneva, Switzerland. It was here that the Internet got its very first website, and history forever altered. To celebrate 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal and to kick-start a series of celebrations worldwide, CERN hosted a 30th Anniversary event on the morning of 12 March 2019 in partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and with the World Wide Web Foundation. This Web@30 anniversary event was webcast so everyone could join them to watch live!
On the 30th anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web, Google is celebrating it with a doodle that is reminder of how things were like in its early years. On March 12, 1989 British physicist Tim Berners-Lee, working for Europe’s physics lab CERN, proposed a decentralised system of information management. It signalled the birth of the World Wide Web that is now used by billions of people. His proposal had system of hypertext links, the possibility of clicking key words on one page and being led directly to the page dedicated to them, thus connecting to other pages. The Google Doodle illustrates this technology milestone with an animation showing block graphics that were common earlier. A globe in the centre renders slowly on a desktop monitor to take us back to a slower download speed era.
Instead of just a database with reams of text, he envisioned a revolutionary new way to link pieces of data to each other. Instead of cross-referencing digital books, Berners-Lee dreamed of a system where you could instead jump right from one piece of information to a related chunk. Berners-Lee also laid out three “sources of dysfunction” that is tormenting the web today. Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour, and online harassment. System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation. Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.
Today’s Doodle depicts a charmingly optimistic vision of the web; a beige computer slowly downloading a slowly-loading video of a rotating globe. It harkens back to a day when cutting edge internet access was defined by an NCSA Mosaic browser and a blazingly fast 19.2k modem. It’s almost unrecognizable from the web we know today, which is overwhelmingly accessed by smartphones, but its vision remains the same — the free exchange of information and ideas around the globe.