The Web is 25 today. And despite the sometimes dark and frightening world it allows us to access, for the most part it has been a blessing to humanity.
Its most valuable asset by far is its ability to connect one human being to another, no matter what time, no matter the distance; no matter the reason. The Web truly is a place for everyone.
The New York Times reports that – potentially – over the next decade, approximately five billion people will become connected to the Internet. The biggest increases will be in societies that, according to the human rights group Freedom House, are severely censored: places where clicking on an objectionable article can get your entire extended family thrown in prison, or worse.
The inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee celebrated the anniversary by making a bold statement:
“Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control – more and more surveillance?” He continues:
“Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the World Wide Web and say, actually, now it’s so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?”
And I have to agree. Because there have been so many – too many – times when the Web has been humanity’s only outlet.
In 2009, the uprising in Iran caused Westerners to turn their avatars and profile pictures green in support of the revolutionaries. In 2011 Egyptians and Tunisians took to the streets, where journalists, bloggers and locals filmed, photographed and shared amazing and horrifying scenes, causing the rest of the world to show their virtual support.
Even today, sometimes our only insight into what the people of Syria are living through is video footage posted on YouTube.
The Web is crucial to humanity. If Governments control it, what protects us from our governments?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the internet has changed everything. But it’s hard to deny its impact… or what we would be now without it.
So Happy Birthday World Wide Web, and long may you continue!