20 Years Of Free Internet – 20 Years Of Opportunity?

"Gordon Bryan", "CERN"April 30th 2013, and it’s 20 years ago today that it was announced the internet would be free. That, in a word, meant opportunity. It also just so happens to be incorrect…

I’m sure you’ll agree as you get your bill for internet access, or for your hosting account if you have a website. It’s not free at all, is it!

Well, the ‘internet’ may not be free, but the world wide web is – what’s the difference, and how does it impact you?

The internet has been around for a lot longer than 20 years, but it was back in the late 1980s that Briton Tim Berners-Lee thought along with others that there must be a way of unifying the different set ups on the internet, to make it accessible without all the individual protocols.

He came up with the World Wide Web, which had set ways of programming and connecting, and it was on April 30th 1993 that CERN announced that it was putting the world wide web into the public domain.

That meant they renounced any intellectual rights to the web, but also that stopped anyone laying claim. It would be free.

You may have to pay to go online, you may have to pay for your own hosting space there, but the system that allows you to access other websites, and allows others to access yours, the world wide web, is free.

If you don’t like a particular browser, you can use another one, because whoever owns the rights to your browser software does not own the right to the world wide web.
If you don’t like a particular provider of hosting space, go to another, because they do not own the rights to the world wide web.

And so on and so on, you get the idea – how you access and navigate the internet can be charged, but the world wide web cannot.

It’s an opportunity that wasn’t around when I was growing up. I had to make do with the telephone, with 35mm cameras, with letters, with books.

The information I had access to was slower, and much more difficult to access on a large scale. The difference now is that I can just nip online and hit the search engines, or can email anyone, or go on a social network.

If I want to find out how to do something, it’ll only take a couple of clicks and I can see almost too much information, so much that I have to filter where to start!

That also means that I can put myself out there to anyone in the world who is on the web. Full colour, sound, video, as much as I want, either with full access, or access controlled by me.

Many people say that the world wide web has harmed society, that people have gone introspective, living their lives through a screen rather than in the real world.

There is some logic to that, and you do have to wonder what the kids of today will grow into as adults. I climbed trees and ran away from girls. Boys of today swish away at fancy tablet devices, they climb trees in games, and potentially see girls doing all sorts of things.

It’s all about pros and cons.

Long time readers of mine will know that I like to focus on the positives, (something I did years before the web came along!), to wonder at the opportunities. We could put our heads in the sand and try to ignore the web, but it’s not going to disappear anytime soon.

I like to think of how we can use this virtual place to make a difference in the real world – after all, you’re reading this article on the web, and I don’t know where you are in the world or what time it is where you are, but what I write might just make you think in a different way.

*That’s* what I call opportunity! So, on the 20th anniversary of the announcement of a free world wide web, how do you use this opportunity – negatively or positively?

Let me know what you think – I love the feedback!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
P.S. You can read more about taking advantage of opportunity in my book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’

Do leave a comment!

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  • hey that’s a pretty cool post, I didn’t know the history about the internet. When I was going to school they didn’t have all the pcs and stuff. simple paper with pencil and a big eraser! Shoot you wasn’t evben allowed calculators! Simple ,Old fashioned but learnable….or you either got hacks or cleaned erasers…lol I didn’t clean any erasers…the alternative wasn’t very good either! It had a tendancy to leave your face a bright shine of red….and definitely humbled you .It was a good post thanks for memory lane!

    • Thanks Robdog,
      yes, it’s amazing to think of all the things that childrem take for granted nowadays! Mind you, of course there were things that we has as kids that our parents would have been amazed at! Although they didn’t develop anywhere near as fast!

    • I’d tend to agree Roy, but developments like that are no surprise when you allow free access to all. The education level of those using the vehicle is one thing, but it doesn’t detract from the opportunities that vehicle provides.

  • My first job as a new graduate was in a university library. This was 1985. We used to use the one microcomputer in the building to do online searches and often gave up because of ‘noise on the line’. We also used to take phone calls from members of the public who wanted to find out all sorts of things and then we would look them up. Being librarians, we had access to knowledge that wasn’t widely and easily available. I think it’s great that searching for information is easier, faster and more widely available, but I do sense that there is less and less focus on how to research or on being able to discriminate between valuable, reliable information and all the other stuff. I once wrote a report called Online Searching Made Simple (still on Amazon but out of print) because you needed to know how to phrase search terms etc. These days anyone can search and get lots of results but finding the right results is still trickier. I love information being free – and of course you don’t have to pay an ISP, you can go to a library – but I hope it’s not at the expense of our ability to think independently, carry out research and thereby develop expertise. Great post, Gordon, informative as always. Thank you.

    • Hi Harriet,
      I’ve long written about the power, and indeed the need, for independent thought and research.
      This was just as true with something read in a paper before the world wide web as it is true for something we see online today.
      I see lots of stuff posted online which I have already researched and found to be not true, and I guess it’s an inevitable danger of having such vast quantities of information freely available.
      On the plus side, think of all the great blog posts we can read and enjoy..! 😉

  • Yes, there really is a sort of BI (Before Internet) and AI(After Internet) to the life we lead…it’s hard not to be nostalgic for oh, things like bookstores! And people valuing privacy…I don’t know…life moves on…it’s good to remember it wasn’t always like this.

    • Hi Carol,
      I like the BI/AI idea!
      Twenty years ago I was 26, but how different is it for all the young’uns now – imagine them having to get all the way to 26 with no internet! A different world indeed.

  • I prefer to look at the opportunities & positive aspects as well. The internet allows faster and more convenient communication. It’s easier to find our community, even if we’re not next door to each other. And it’s allowed me to build my business from home, spend more time with my daughter, and create a life I love. I have lots of reasons to celebrate!

    • Hi Vanessa,
      I couldn’t agree more, particularly when you talk about finding communities even if we’re not next door to them!