Big birthday today! The absolute happiest of returns to The Internet, who is finally turning the big 3-0. It’s hard to believe that the invention that was a few decades ago a barely-understood technology, used only by nerds on message boards discussing the best way to play DOOM, is now bigger, nerdier and used by absolutely everyone in the world — okay technically half of everyone in the world — even your nan, who loves posting Minion jokes on Facebook.
In 30 short years the internet has shaped aspects of everyday life that are so commonplace we now take them for granted. Your mum had to live without FaceTune, imagine that. There was once a world where pub arguments were not settled by a smug Google search. Our parents’ generation only ever had patchy memories of their wild nights out, not cringe 300-panel Instagram stories that you really regret posting in the morning. They had to live in a world without memes, guys. Sounds boring.
But in spite of all the good things the internet has given us over the past 30 years, its creator is dubious over whether its existence has actually done much good to the world. In fact, Tim Berners-Lee, the actual inventor of the World Wide Web, doesn’t always like what he sees online. In an era of hacking, harassment, hate speech and fake news, we can’t 100% blame him either.
Speaking to reporters last night on the eve of his iconic creation’s birthday, Tim said that the inventions “digital adolescence” has been, in a word, rough. “We’re celebrating but we’re also very concerned,” the inventor said. “Look at the 50 percent who are on the web, and it’s not so pretty for them. They are all stepping back suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections, realising that this web thing that they thought was so cool has actually not necessarily been serving humanity very well.”
The software engineer also took the opportunity to reflect back on the internet’s humble origins: it started as an idea for “http” electronic transfers all the way back in March 1989. The first web browser as we know it appeared at the start of 1990. Since then, Tim’s transfer system has connected millions of people around the world, providing resources that were previously impossible to conceive. Now the creator is emphasising the need for his invention to be, first and foremost, a platform for “public good” in the future. “It’s our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible and inclusive future,” he believes.
It’s like Frankenstein’s monster all over again, but with memes.