The ideals of the World Wide Web
One of the problems of the early Peer-to-Peer Internet was that each piece of information needed to be stored and accessed separately, taking up limited and expensive storage space and computing resources. Data and connections were only available when the computers that hosted them were online.
The Internet relied upon universities and government research laboratories to provide storage and computing power to keep it up and running. Compute power and Storage was incredibly expensive back then so something had to give. Either Universities got more money to buy computers and storage or the existing computers and storage had to get more efficient.
Enter Dr. Tim Berners-Lee (he was not a Lord back then), who developed and indexed for all the data hosted on a server (HTTP) and a hypertextual protocol for all sites hosting that data (HTML). Little did Dr. Berners-Lee know at the time he had just created the World Wide Web (WWW), the foundation of the modern Internet.
The World Wide Web is one of the greatest innovations of the modern age because it allowed more data to be stored on existing hard drives while also making it easier to find. If it was not for the genius of Dr. Tim Berners-Lee the Internet as we know it today would not exist.
One of the consequences of Dr. Berners-Lee’s innovation was that all these fancy new websites with all their carefully indexed data freed up more space for more websites. Facilitating the easy indexing of data on websites enable the Internet to grow quickly, providing an opportunity for early Internet pioneers like AltaVista and Netscape to develop ‘portals’ where all these new websites could be found and accessed.
Alta Vista and Netscape were great but they were still portals for individuals to access the growing list of websites on the WWW. Sites like these were still kind of attentive to Peer-to-Peer ideals in that each of us were still connected individually to the Internet through our modem, phone line — but now we had a portal. For the first time there was someone between me and the data or people I was looking for and that someone was a for profit company.
The Internet was no longer an open network for the free exchange of data and ideas. Web 1.0 was beholden to new masters, the venture capitalists and shareholders who funded the companies developing the portals to access all the new data hosted on the web. When we started to access the Internet through a portal we gave up something fundamental, our freedom to directly control who we met and what we saw when we surfed the Internet.
Unwittingly, the web that Dr. Tim Berners-Lee invented to make Internet access more efficient also made it more valuable as a source of revenue for a new breed of technology company based in Silicon Valley. Monetizing the connection between Internet users and the data they wanted to access was a gold mine that proved impossible to resist.
Just like Marty McFly, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who got a knighthood for creating the web, is now looking to fix the monster he created by going back to the P2P past to build a new decentralised future for the Internet. Check out Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s latest effort to fix the web. It’s known as Solid.