Monday, March 15, 2010

25 years of radical change


The news is all atwitter because .com names came into existence 25 years ago today. But it wasn't until 5 years later in 1990 that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web – the only 'internet' that most people know – and made those .com names useful.

I remember seeing my first graphical web page at that time – a friend of mine at college had put up a little page about his department and had scandalously included his photograph. I was horrified, and the first words out of my mouth were, “this will never catch on.” Boy was I wrong.

At that time 'my' internet was a world of safe, opaque text. I'd have never dreamed of putting my photograph up on a web page for potentially anyone in the world to see. That thought frightened me because sharing something so personal with people I did not know seemed fundamentally wrong. But these days not it's not unusual for people to share much more than that on social networking sites.

I lecture my daughter weekly about the dangers of sharing too much on the 'net. She thinks I'm an old fogey.

But the W3 has changed us forever in many ways, particularly in the way we view privacy. We have gone from a people who jealously guarded our privacy and defended confidentiality to a people that no longer really even seem to understand those concepts. I consider that from time to time, and I don't really like it. I guess I am the old fogey that my daughter thinks I am.

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