The World Wide Web at Thirty
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Creating a More Positive Internet and Social Media for Musicians…and the Entire World
IT seems amazing that the World Wide Web...
IN THIS PHOTO: Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web/PHOTO CREDIT: Olef Blecker
is a mighty thirty. There is a difference between the World Wide Web and Internet but, as we are sort of celebrating this big technological breakthrough, it is worth looking back to 1989 and a very special time. I was in primary school then and still can recall having these enormous discs we put in primitive computers; playing this – as they appear now – ancient and very basic video games. They thrilled us and anything as radical as being able to connect with people around the world by computer seemed such a strange and impossible thing. Look at where we are now and anyone, anywhere can pretty much find out anything they want; they can look at God knows what and there is this entire universe available from the comfort of home. Yesterday, to mark thirty years of the World Wide Web, the BBC published this article that charts the beginnings and what we experienced in the earliest days:
“Thirty years ago today, Sir Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the world wide web. To celebrate its anniversary, tech firms, early web users and retired politicians are flooding #Web30 on Twitter with nostalgic posts remembering their first interactions with the world wide web.
The earliest computing technology was conceptualised in the mid-19th century by British mathematician Charles Babbage. The first computer wasn't built, however, until 1939. Soon after, the first computer company was founded...
In the 1960s, two MIT Graduate students theorised and then created a technology that was able to transfer small packets of information from one computer to another. This interconnectivity, first called the Arpanet, marked the first traces of the internet.
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The technology was primarily used for US defence strategy throughout the Cold War. This was until two decades later when Tim Berners-Lee sought to streamline a connection between a larger network of computers. Thus, the internet browser and the world wide web was created.
Today, we think of the internet as millions of links networked on a variety of browser options like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer. We can thank Berners-Lee for it because a "browser" was first coined in his 1989 information management proposal.
The first ever web address that started it all was http://info.cern.ch/ and it still exists today”.
Look at that report and one can see some of the earliest websites. By today’s standards they look almost alien and we can all remember the experience of connecting to the Internet: that screeching dial-up tone that would last forever and you’d have to wait until something cranked up. Photos and information would almost form on screen as though somebody was designing it on-the-fly and it was a very slow, yet exciting, experience. We have come a long way but it seems like, in every aspect, there is dangerous and anti-social behaviour. The fact that yesterday’s Brexit vote was rejected means that many of us are unsure what happens next. It is worth alluding to Brexit and the issues musicians will face but I wanted to see whether the Internet as we know it is a good force for artists.
It is definitely handy being able to connect with anyone and get your music out there. For everyone in the industry, it is quick and seamless when you need to communicate and share some news. The flow of information means that we can all keep informed and educated but, in many ways, the ease in which we can all have our opinions read is a negative. Before speculating as to how we can change the Internet and make it a safer space, this article from The Guardian celebrated the World Wide Web at thirty and spoke with Tim Berners-Lee:
“It’s understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good. But given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.”
Berners-Lee breaks down the problems the web now faces into three categories. The first is what occupies most of the column inches in the press, but is the least intrinsic to the technology itself: “deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour and online harassment”.
He believes this makes the system fragile. “It’s amazing how clever people can be, but when you build a new system it is very, very hard to imagine the ways in which it can be attacked.”...
Berners-Lee’s solution is radical: a sort of refoundation of the web, creating a fresh set of rules, both legal and technical, to unite the world behind a process that can avoid some of the missteps of the past 30 years.
Calling it the “contract for the web”, he first suggested it last November at the Web Summit in Lisbon. “At pivotal moments,” he says, “generations before us have stepped up to work together for a better future. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, diverse groups of people have been able to agree on essential principles. With the Law of Sea and the Outer Space Treaty, we have preserved new frontiers for the common good. Now too, as the web reshapes our world, we have a responsibility to make sure it is recognised as a human right and built for the public good”.
I do love that musicians can get credit and praise when they put their songs online. There is this feeling that anyone can achieve anything and we can instantly hear some of the best new music within an instant. There are loads of positives but I think there are a lot of bad sides that are affecting musicians’ mental-health and well-being. The tensions we are all feeling right now seem to spill out into some rather negative communications and a sense of negativity.
Many people are venting and lashing out; I am hearing of so many people in music who are recipients of hatred and vile. From attacks on female musicians regarding weight and looks to racism and sexism, there is this platform where everyone can get away with what they like. I do feel there are benefits of the Internet - and how it has developed over the years – but I wonder whether we are using this technology for good and genuine positivity? Many of us are fearful regarding the future of the U.K. and we all must come together. Music is an industry that has its problems and, for many, it is not safe space. Rather than ban everyone who posts something hateful and toxic, I think there needs to be more education; channels that can allow artists and those in the music industry to talk about big issues and creating this dialogue. I feel the sheer size of the Internet and social media platforms makes it hard to control the volume of communications and a lot can get lost. Whether an artist is being body-shamed or there is something negative written about an album, all of this is having a big impact on people. It is no coincidence that the rise and proliferation of the Internet can be linked to greater anxiety and depression. It is worth noting there are a lot of good people out there but there is too much negative energy and argument.
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I have been thinking about it for a while but I do wonder whether there should be a unique website for those in music. Rather than rely on the normal social media channels, having a website that is safe, monitored and can better control hatred would be a bonus. I think people can still use Twitter and Facebook but having this bespoke site that not only filters out negative comments and the worst elements but creates this educational and constructive forum would be great. It would be a one-stop space for the passionate music-lover and you’d have so much information and networks. It would not be overwhelming and, one hopes, addictive in a good way – more in terms of benefit and education rather than idly sitting at a screen for no reason. There are big threats regarding the Internet but I think ensuring there is less hate and angry interaction is vital. Making this secure website is important and there needs to be a more open-minded and positive area. It may sound utopian but I do think social media, as it is now, is this big and messy thing that is impossible to safeguard. Every day, I see so many tweets shared that propagate such awful notions. Many artists are talking about the comments they receive and how that makes them feel. The World Wide Web was created as this exciting and hopeful innovation and, to a certain point in history, it has been massively positive and a force for good.
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I am not saying social media is the worst element of the modern-day Internet but I do think there are so many people feeling buried and unsafe. From women receiving disturbing images and messages through to hopeful bands being hammered and having their self-esteem destroyed, things can only get worse. I think Tim Berners-Lee is right when he prophesises this rather dystopian future and a world where there are scammers and we feel unsure about our privacy. I think a lot of people have too much choice and are spending too much time relying on the Internet; many people in music cannot get out of the lure of social media and others are revealing how they are having their details shared and being scammed for money. It is a big dream to revolutionise the Internet and the way we all feel. There is so much power and technology at our feet and I do think we can all come together, as Berners-Lee hopes, and make these changes. In a musical realm, either creating this website/social media platform that erases the worst of the current options and adds so much more; maybe looking at why there is so much tension and hatred and trying to incorporate new elements into Twitter and Facebook. Rather than penalise and ban those who offend and go too far, creating videos and links that create awareness and give them information.
I am not sure but I do have a feeling that, the more divided we are become, the more we see poison and anger replace anything genuinely warm and together. That is not a good thing to realise. Music is a wonderful medium and there are so many positive aspects that, I feel, are getting swamped under a lot of tension. Thirty years down the line, we can experience music like never before and have access to pretty much anything recorded. We can send messages to our favourite acts and the networking opportunities are incredible indeed. All of this is brilliant but I feel more time should be invested regarding repair and monitoring as opposed seeing how advanced and fancy the Internet can be. Social media channels are vital for people in music – and everyone in general – and most of what I see on a daily basis is either quite negative or inane. Making it constructive and purposeful is as important as creating a less hostile and depressive platform. If, looking at the next decade-or-so, we can help ease anxieties and fears and improve the Internet/social media as we know, that will lead to something truly remarkable. It is within our grasp and I think we can all get behind a dream where our lives are a lot richer and more secure when we go online.
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That is not to discredit all the good that we have seen over the decades and how the music industry has been transformed. I do not think any of us would be where we are without the Internet and we can all owe it to the modest and curious World Wide Web that arrived thirty years ago. It would have been unbelievable if someone had claimed in 1989 that, in only a few decades, there would be this incredible highway and world where we could all reach one another. It would have been scary to hear but also very heart-warming and wondrous. I think this rather ideal and inspiring desire is within reach but it down to those in power (regarding social media) to...
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HELP make that change.