John Topley’s Weblog

World Wide What?

It’s hard to believe, but the World Wide Web turned fifteen on the 6th of August. Hard to believe because the Web has more or less gone away. Before you think I’ve gone completely mad in the face of its ubiquity and pervasiveness, allow me to explain.

We no longer notice when we’re using the Web. Have you noticed how almost all of the URLs you see on adverts or in magazines or on the television are no longer prefixed with http://? That’s because the fact that Web URLs need to start with it has been assimilated into popular culture. That and the fact that browsers add it automatically anyway. Besides, it looks quite ugly in print. Have you also noticed that increasingly URLs don’t even have “www” in front of them any more? With good reason—usually we no longer need to draw attention to the fact that the resource we’re accessing is on the Web. For years I thought there was something special about that “www”, until I learned that it’s just another subdomain.

Most people have never made a distinction between the Internet (which has been around in one form or another since 1969) and the Web, which can be thought of as just another application that uses the Internet, as e-mail, FTP, Archie and Gopher all are. As far as the majority are concerned, the Web is the Internet. All of which just goes to show how successful Tim Berners-Lee’s original idea has been, in all but one area. In spite of the explosion in the number of blogs and user-driven sites like Digg, the balance of the Web is still overwhelmingly weighted towards consumers over producers. It’s still largely read-only.

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As far as the majority are concerned, the Web is the Internet.


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