There was a very important birthday this week that you probably forgot. Don't worry, you don't need to run out and get a card to apologize. The World Wide Web doesn't mind that you forgot its 25th birthday. But you should probably feel guilty about letting this milestone pass unnoticed because, according to Pew, the World Wide Web has made your life better.
Before we go any further, let's clear something up: The World Wide Web is not the internet. "It is one of the most important and heavily-used parts of the network of computer networks that make up the internet," according to Pew. "Indeed, the invention of the Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee was instrumental in turning the internet from a geeky data-transfer system embraced by specialists and a small number of enthusiasts into a mass-adopted technology easily used by hundreds of millions around the world." (Please note the absence of any mention of Al Gore.)
That being said, Pew did not forget WWW's birthday, and commemorated it with a study that revealed a few interesting things:
- 87% of American adults now use the internet
- 90% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for them personally and 6% say it has been a bad thing-while 3% volunteer that it has been some of both
- 76% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for society, while 15% say it has been a bad thing and 8% say it has been equally good and bad
Considering the enormous economic impact of the web-not to mention the level of access and transparency it has facilitated-it's no surprise that the vast majority of users have found it beneficial. Meanwhile, 53% say that the World Wide Web would be "very hard" to give up (compared with 38% in 2006).
That's a pretty big leap, and I was wondering what might have caused that 15 point leap. I think we can point toward two things: Web-connected mobile devices and social media. Gone are the days when you used the web while sitting at your desk to check your email or Google the answer to a question. In 2014, the web-for many of us-is an indispensible tool and constant companion. Without it, we'd lose touch with our far-flung family members, couldn't do our jobs, and would have no idea how to get where we are going!
While the World Wide Web undoubtedly changed the world, there might be an argument to be made that the biggest web-related changes happened within the past decade or so. Now it's where we get our news, our music, our movies, our driving directions, and so much more-and that's just what we do with the devices in our pockets.
It's hard to imagine how the web will continue to change. New devices like Google Glass will arrive on the scene-and maybe depart without much fanfare-and some people will hook up their stoves and thermostats to the web, but those things are already happening. Predicting how the web will continue to be inter-twined in our lives is impossible, even just a few years down the road.
So, happy birthday to the World Wide Web! I can't wait to see you at 50!
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)