Mobile is just the beginning

Stranger things have happened

@tef pointed me to this lovely little bit of history…a cache of design notes and “statements of architectural principle” compiled by Tim Berners-Lee between 1996 and 2003.

A particular article, entitled Myths about links caught my eye. The article seeks to dispel common myths (from 1997!) in regards to linking.

Looking at them today, they seem quite absurd.

  • Myth: A normal link is an incitement to copy the linked document in a way which infringes copyright.
  • Myth: Making a link to a document makes your document more valuable and therefore is a right you should pay [for].
  • Myth: Making a link to someone’s publicly readable document is an infringement of privacy.

Tim also outlines some notorious cases where companies tried to prevent others from linking (or deep linking) to their site. (Note the presence of one an Olympic sites on the list…a brand that to this day has difficulty adapting to social change).

It’s sobering to think how many businesses (let alone global resources like Wikipedia) wouldn’t exist today if we’d continued to believe that linking should require permission, or payment, and should otherwise be prevented from occurring. The overhead involved would have been stifling and the administrative hassle not worth the burden for all but the largest or richest of companies.

But then again…stranger things have happened.

This glimpse into the web’s past reminds us how the social, political, and organizational changes brought on by a technology are often far more disruptive than the technology itself. In fact, creating the technology is somewhat (!) the easy bit. What’s much harder is to find a place for it in our lives.

And if that technology happens to be disruptive, this can take a very long time indeed. Fifteen years after Tim wrote these notes, we may think we know the Internet (and the web), yet their place in society is constantly being challenged.

How many bizarre, costly, and disruptive processes do we persist with today simply because it’s so hard to move past “how things have always been…”?

How different might the world be if we’d gone another way?

2 Responses to “Stranger things have happened”

  1. Pete

    I’m quite sure that the world would be a better place without the internet at all.

  2. S.K.

    Your ending question reminds me of a 1998 letter sent by the Founder and CEO of World Wide Web, Inc.

    “The World Wide Web is Moving to AOL!”, its’ titled celebrated.

    So yes, the world, especially the web, would have been a lot different had not been for a few good men and women.


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