The best and worst of the web at 25
With the World Wide Web turning a quarter of a century young this month we couldn’t help but consider exactly how far it has come. From dialup to fibre optic connections, this global information network has developed from a specialist tool to household mainstay, and if recent figures are anything to believe the British public now spends more time exploring online than it does watching TV.
Those looking for a revolution are in the right place then. From shopping to renting movies, planning parties to navigating foreign cities, there isn’t an aspect of everyday life that hasn’t been changed, irrevocably, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention. Taking this into account, we felt it only right to compile a list of the five best and five worst things the era of www.everything has given us, so take a look below and see if you don’t agree…
Smoking Gun’s World Wide Web Top 5
5. Data transfers and file sharing
Before the web arrived sending information to another location quickly meant using something called a fax machine. The problem was, most of us still felt the need to call the recipient to ask if they actually received the documents. Needless to say then, email clients and the more recent creation of file sharing and data transfer services like DropBox have sped up and secured the process significantly.
4. Social Media
Even if you loathe Facebook and have no interest in Twitter, the implications of these platforms are enormous. Within a decade of the idea becoming a mainstream reality revolutions have been started, dictatorships overthrown, and scandals exposed. Meanwhile, dropping a quick message to your friend in Australia has never been easier.
Before we could do all our shopping online choice was comparitively limited and prices less competitive. Of course there are negative aspects to this, with the decline of the high street, waiting around for packages to arrive and problems finding shoes that fit properly. But very few people would argue that saving money and avoiding trudging around town in the pouring rain aren’t definite advantages.
‘There’s a lot of stuff on that there Internet’, and none of it would be user friendly without a www.domain to host the content. We can now access information on anything our hearts desire, from anywhere in the world, and more often than not it’s completely free. Universities house their libraries digitally, museums offer virtual walkthroughs- allowing us to peruse their collections- and a visit to the archives no longer requires a huge step ladder and hours spent rooting through dusty shelves.
1. A (more) level playing field
Big business still rules the global roost, but firms and organisations of all sizes now have a chance to share the spoils thanks to the World Wide Web. The lower overheads involved in ecommerce have reduced overall expenses, and the ability to market on a global scale means even SMEs have become multi-national. Meanwhile, perhaps more significantly, once the entire world has access to the information superhighway, the planet will be a far more equal place for everyone.
Smoking Gun’s World Wide Web Worst 5
5. Job titles like ‘digital guru’
Proof, if it were needed, that the idiots could win if we don’t stand firm, since the advent of the World Wide Web an increasing number of ridiculous job titles have been created. Approach all with extreme caution.
4. Fewer conversations, more distractions
From gigs full of people filming low grade camera phone movies for immediate YouTube posting, to hawk-eyed eBay shoppers grunting in response to their partner, when we’re wired in other lines of communication unarguably suffer.
3. The decline of the English language
Thanks to the ever-developing ‘digital dictionary’ people have become far lazier when it comes to spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. When this spills into the off-screen world it poses significant problems for the worst culprits.
2. Trolling, and anonymous malice
The vindictive and bullying nature of so-called ‘trolls’, and their ability to hide behind a screen name, is a sickening scourge of the online age. The web represents free speech, but surely there is a limit to what’s socially acceptable.
1. Child pornography
Predators have always existed, but policing the web is so difficult access to illegal images of minors has never been more widespread. Worse still, as technology designed to catch these criminals improves, so does their ability to evade the law.