Georgina Greenspan

02 Sep 2019

Thinking back over the last 40 years of tech innovation is dizzying. Almost everything we’ve come to take for granted in our daily lives has been created during that time. From ATMs and contactless payments to (my personal weakness) online shopping, smartphones and even DNA sequencing, the last 40 years have been jampacked with innovations that have forever altered human history. But for me personally, the hero moment has to be Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web in 1989. An obvious choice? Perhaps. But one that nonetheless has played a fundamental part in our digital journey. The World Wide Web is the foundation for the world we live in today. It was responsible for opening up the internet to each and every one of us and has connected the world in a way few of us could have ever imagined.

A new era of information

Today, thanks to Berners-Lee, we have thousands of terabytes of information at our fingertips. We can uncover the history of a civilisation, learn how to code, conquer a new language and even complete a degree – all from our computer or mobile device. For generations young and old, it has provided a platform for personal development and education. As Governments and educational institutes continue to harness this power, I think we can expect a further evolution, one that continues to level the playing field and give everyone access to information. Creating the ability to share and develop knowledge would be enough to recognise this as a hero moment. But the World Wide Web has done far more than that.

A global platform for change

The World Wide Web has provided people across the world with a voice. Whether it’s a blog, a vlog, a Twitter account or a Facebook profile, none of these communications would be possible without Berners-Lee. Those services in turn have given citizens a platform to challenge the status quo, and created a new era of news where we’re as likely to find out breaking stories from the people experiencing them as we are from news outlets. At this point, I’d be remiss not to talk about the challenges that this has created. From fake news to bots, many social media platforms are struggling to regulate user behaviour, leading to the manipulation of facts and online bullying. Tackling this is one of the reasons Berners-Lee has called for a Contract for the Web, with commitment needed from Governments, organisations and citizens to maintain a fair and open internet. A brilliant idea. Whether this is successful, only time will tell.

A tool for digital collaboration

Finally, the World Wide Web has fundamentally changed the way we work and collaborate. Berners-Lee’s original intent was to create a new way for scientists to share the data from their experiments. The evolution of the web has led to so much more, providing collaborators the world over with a platform to work together to create change. Whether that’s helping scientists better understand one another’s results, bringing together developers from across the globe to create something new or even simply connecting two academics working on the same passion project, the World Wide Web has paved the way (and will continue to do so) for some of the world’s greatest achievements. And arguably, some of the world’s biggest tech brands, from Google to Facebook, wouldn’t exist without Berners-Lee’s inventions.

A world where cats rule

And then of course, there’s all the fun, frivolous content that has been created and shared the world over. Predominantly cat gifs. Since the dawn of the internet, for reasons much argued, cats have ruled our online kingdom. From the most-watched videos to the most-shared GIFs, cats have slowly taken over, providing vast entertainment for bored adults (and children, but mostly adults…) avoiding the responsibility of day-to-day life. And I don’t know about you, but I’m okay living in a world where cats rule.