A brief history of the internet (part one)

Well, not really.

This is a story about how attitudes to technology and sharing across the internet have changed, seen through a very personal lens (mine). All I really want to do in this blog is to use a couple of experiences to gauge how far away we’ve got from the original objectives of the internet.

And, in order to do so, it would be good to examine these objectives…which of course, don’t really exist. However, let’s look to the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, for inspiration, and look at the names rejected before settling on world wide web. These included The Information Mesh and The Information Mine. Incidentally, both were turned down as they abbreviated to TIM, and TB-L is a modest sort of a fellow. Anyway, these say an awful lot more than WWW. The object of putting the web on top of the internet in the first place was to allow users to mine for information in a way that, until that point had only been possible in slow time with huge physical libraries of information at your disposal.

Which brings me to coming across the web for the first time. In its early days, the internet made its mark through Joe Public (who needed a networked connection into some other host capability) accessing what we now refer to as bulletin boards or user groups. If you knew an address, then you could type this in to some sort of emulator, and see what the dudes on alt.gaffatape.hamster were talking about. It wasn’t really until the web and web browsers were laid on top of this that any ‘browsing’ could take place, and even that was a bit rudimentary. But what the browsers did do, was open up a whole lot of relatively rich content.

So, my first story involves setting up these browsers at work on an internet connected network for the first time. I had a rudimentary networking knowledge, and we chose a browser called Netscape a) because it got the best reviews and b) because it wasn’t a Microsoft product. We’d read up a good deal on the potential for sharing information, how we were going to see encyclopaedic knowledge shared throughout the world, although of course the number of sites providing this data was a fraction of a fraction compared to the web today. So, we dutifully installed the browser on the MD’s computer, and configured it to connect to the net while isolated from our internal network. We solemnly placed the cursor on the address line and awaited instructions from the MD, who had just come into the office with the marketing director.

“Right”, the authoritative voice called out, “Where’s the porn?”

To be continued…


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