Web 2.0: my thoughts
I think this video is brilliant, not only in its execution and scope, but in how it’s spurred me to examine how the web has evolved over the past ten, fifteen years. (I always hesitate to impose any kind of “starting point,” because even though the first website went live in 1991 and Mosaic appeared two years later, it wasn’t until around 1996 or 1997 that I really saw things start to move.)
I see kids today—gah, I sound so curmudgeonly!—as taking it all for granted. I suppose that’s not their fault; the Internet has always been around for them, just like computers were part of my own life from an early age. I used to program in BASIC on an Apple ][+, but part of me felt restricted. It was just me and the computer, and no one else. There had to be more. One day I was visiting a neighbour, an Apple dealer, who had this device called a modem, and to demonstrate, he dialed me into a BBS. That was the turning point for me: I was connected to other people on other computers. I could talk to them. This was it!
Getting back to the kids, they’re too young to have witnessed the web explosion, at least from an adult perspective. I remember my excitement upon purchasing my first computer, a 200 MHz Pentium MMX, which came with an internal 56.6K modem. (Now my
porn web experience would be blazing fast!) Then there was streaming audio and video—really bad, chunky streaming content that would spend more time buffering than playing. People started putting up their own webpages, inevitably in retina-searing hard-to-read colours with horrible tiled backgrounds and annoying spinning GIFs for the sake of spinning GIFs. (“It spins! Look, honey, the future is now! Wait, hold on… it’s loading… it’ll spin in a second… hold on…”)
I don’t know quite when the change happened, when it became more about us than them. Time Magazine named us all Persons of the Year, because to a far greater extent than even four or five years ago, we’re in control.
What happened here on my blog just last weekend really drove it home for me. I was watching the CTV news Friday night, and there was a story about the Bride Wigout video. I happened to be sitting at the computer, clicked YouTube on my bookmarks toolbar, entered “bride wigout” in the search field, and there it was. I posted it—more accurately, created a post embedding the video—to this blog, and thought that was that.
The Bride Wigout story hit the news in Australia Sunday morning their time, Saturday evening here. I came home from an afternoon out, and checked my blog stats, both here on WordPress and on StatCounter. Thousands of visits, all from Australia, all to the Bride Wigout post. How did they get here? Oh yeah, Google had already swept my blog. Why was my blog, my little blog started only three days earlier, the first search result?
It was cool, but it made me think. I couldn’t have conceived of anything like this in 1998, fooling around on my little Pentium with the 56.6K modem—and I’ve always been a computer-savvy guy. By this token, then, I don’t think I can predict where things are going to go in the next five years—no, the next year, because things evolve so quickly now. I can hardly imagine what Web 3.0 will be like.
For the kids, though, it’s par for the course. That’s the way it is. Do they hold any wonder regarding any of this? Here is where I think my having been, and being, there as an adult witness to it all, able to “remember when,” is something to truly treasure.