Quentin Hardy writes about an encouraging meeting in San Francisco:
Twenty-seven years ago, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web as a way for scientists to easily find information. It has since become the world’s most powerful medium for knowledge, communications and commerce — but that doesn’t mean Mr. Berners-Lee is happy with all of the consequences. …
Today, the World Wide Web has become a system that is often subject to control by governments and corporations. Countries like China can block certain web pages from their citizens, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services hold powerful sway. So what might happen, the computer scientists posited, if they could harness newer technologies — like the software used for digital currencies, or the technology of peer-to-peer music sharing — to create a more decentralized web with more privacy, less government and corporate control, and a level of permanence and reliability?
“National histories, the story of a country, now happen on the web,” said Vinton G. Cerf, another founder of the internet and chief internet evangelist at Google, in a phone interview ahead of a speech to the group scheduled for Wednesday. “People think making things digital means they’ll last forever, but that isn’t true now.” …
“Edward Snowden showed we’ve inadvertently built the world’s largest surveillance network with the web,” said Mr. Kahle, whose group organized the conference. “China can make it impossible for people there to read things, and just a few big service providers are the de facto organizers of your experience. We have the ability to change all that.”
Many people conflate the internet’s online services and the web as one and the same — yet they are technically quite different. The internet is a networking infrastructure, where any two machines can communicate over a variety of paths, and one local network of computers can connect with other networks.
The web, on the other hand, is a popular means to access that network of networks. But because of the way web pages are created, managed and named, the web is not fully decentralized. Take down a certain server and a certain web page becomes unavailable. Links to pages can corrode over time. Censorship systems like China’s Great Firewall eliminate access to much information for most of its people. By looking at internet addresses, it is possible for governments and companies to get a good idea of who is reading which web pages.
I distinctly remember how it felt to interact with the web when I first started using a connected computer as a teenager. Different than today, in the sense the article dives into, which is that in so many ways we’ve “met the new boss, same as the old boss.” We have a messaging system, not a library.