“Tim Berners-Lee” was one of the answers to an exam that we took recently in one of my RTV courses here at UCF. He is credited as the first person to pioneer what we know as today’s Internet using HTTP Protocol. Up until then, the military’s ARPAnet was the network in use. My interest was piqued when I saw he is the author of one of this week’s articles, titled “Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality”.
He explains the humble beginnings of the Internet on his desk in Geneva, Switzerland in December of 1990. He also humbly explains that it was a collaboration of a LOT of hard-working, like-minded individuals. Even as his one browser opened the one existing website that day, he certainly could have never imagined the explosive myriad ways that the Internet would advance and change the quality of our lives. He is a true pioneer and visionary who is still very much involved in the evolution of interconnectivity, as we know it.
Yet, as I read his article, I felt a sense of sadness as he laid out his argument for why the Web needs to remain open, so that it can foster and grow new technologies and future innovations. It’s not that his ideas are bad, in fact, they are brilliantly simple and true, it’s that they strike me as somewhat naïve and idealistic. You see, despite the best of intentions, now that the Internet has become monetized, there is really no going back. Companies will be watching our every move and reporting, farming and selling our thoughts, preferences and patterns because they can, and because there is really big money to be made in doing so. It is in direct contrast to free and open communication.
So, as Berners-Lee made his case for open standards, universality and not snooping, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of The Lorax ringing in my head. The Lorax is one of Dr. Seuss’ lesser known books, but one that I recall vividly from my childhood, perhaps because I saw the cartoon version of it on TV and the voice of the Lorax brought his confusion and anguish to life for me. He would shout; “I am The Lorax and I speak for the trees”, as the bulldozers were mowing his forest down. His arguments were sane and logical, but no one wanted to hear them until it was too late. Such is the case with the Internet. His ideals are rational and valid, but he might as well stand up and shout; “I am Berners-Lee and I speak for the Internet”. I think that even he knows the bulldozers are coming.