Deja Vu – all over again…the web turns 20 years old

On March 13, 1989 Tim Berners-Lee invented what we currently call the web. I was a college student at the time studying such geeky things as data communications where we learned about the ARPAnet which was the precursor of the internet but the ‘web’ was yet to come. Access to the web as we know it now through a graphical web browser came later when Marc Andreesson (Netscape & Mosaic) and others, brought us an easier way to access the ‘world wide web’.  March 13, 1989 was the day when a new (at the time) disruptive technology was released to the world.

What is a disruptive technology? Typically a new technology that displaces an established technology. Not a gentle evolution of an existing technology but a divergent and new path to follow. Examples in recent memory are the personal computer, the web and now Web 2.0. What I find ironic is that a lot of the same negative comments about Web 2.0 were said about the web and before that, the personal computer. Things like: no one uses it, it’s a security risk, it’s a time waster, there’s no business ROI, it’s a fad and on and on. Yes . . . deja vu all over again! I can’t help but think those same things were said when Gutenberg revealed his printing press. Disruptive technolgies can be difficult because of the changes they bring and the challenges they have to the status quo. They are also times of great opportunities. There are winners and losers as the result of disruptive technologies. Many of us just go along for the ride. The web as we know it and the changes it will bring in the near future are disruptive and challenging to the status quo. Even the original web is being challenged. It’s a great time to be alive.

What we need to thank Tim Berners-Lee for is the improvement in human to human communication that the web gives us. Not the time wasted on the web or other negative things such as porn, teen luring and online gambling but the ability to see what the rest of the world is doing and thinking. Being able to watch, read and listen to news stories as they happen. Being able to share ideas and collaborate on innovation.

BTW: Tim Berners-Lee is still actively involved in the web world as Director of W3C – World Wide Web Consortium (www.w3.org) whose mission is to develop and promote web standards and guidelines as an international group.

Dean

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