I remember the first time I accessed the internet, in the year 1998, as well as the first web page I saw in my life (Macromedia.com, now property of Adobe), which undoubtedly opened the doors for me to a new world of information. It was a great experience, not only because I had access from practically the first years of the worldwide web’s growth (in March of 1989, Tim Berners-Lee was starting the first trials, in 1991 he wrote the first web search engine, and finally, in 1993, the CERN put the software World Wide Web in the public domain), but because unfortunately I was living in a country (Cuba) where still today millions of users have not even known what it is to write WWW in a search engine, or cannot comprehend the concept of the Network of networks.
Before then, I remember that I had already heard of INTERNET and read materials that advertised websites and other content which were already fascinating to me. Over the years, and while already in other world scenes, I managed to become one of the millions of users that already use this tool not only at work, but in the rest of modern life’s forms and activities, thereby contributing to the process of its evolution.
A lot has happened in cyberspace since its creation, and in spite of the years gone by there is still a lot to think about: how it will continue to grow, how this expansion of information will proceed, and ultimately the possibility that it could grow into something that we haven’t even imagined yet. How will society keep receiving, shaping, and adapting itself to these changes?
Personally, I believe that there are three fundamental factors that still limit the Web in spite of its expansion, and which undoubtedly confront us as a challenges in our days.
The Growth of WWW
According to predictions from specialized organizations, the world population this year could reach more than 9 billion people. Almost half of the population (not counting, of course, the age segment that for obvious reasons won’t yet have autonomy) will be connected by 2017. Global IP traffic will multiply by three between 2012 and 2017 until reaching 1.4 annual Zettabytes, which means an inter-annual rate of growth of 23% in this period.
However, we know that because of different factors like geography, access to technologies, governments, exclusion and censorship policies, access to education and development, etc., the previously mentioned figures may not be fulfilled. The Internet will have to be able to overcome these barriers if we truly want to talk about world scope and being all and everything interconnected.
Let’s think of the places that because of geographic limitations cannot access the Internet. What is the value of having social networks and smart mobile devices today if we are in the middle of a place that doesn’t have reception? This is what alternative projects should be looking at with more interest: to be able to bring reception to every corner of the planet. I once read that what we use today was already invented 20 years ago. I hope that if this is really true, that access to the Web can grow without geographic barriers, thanks in part to projects like Loon for All, by Google.
Connection speed and Data diffusion
It’s frustrating when we have to access content online and the connection speed is not with us. But it’s no longer an issue of comfort, it’s a major necessity. There’s more and more information that we need to access, and much of the content is in a format that, because of its own technological progress, uses more capacity and resources. A better Internet cannot stay consigned to speeds of current exchange.
From the 28Kb telephonic modem, and onward through DLS, ADSL, T1, etc., the speed improvements still aren’t really palpable for the majority of users. Whether it’s because of the time that the large companies and organizations take to agree on the standards of functioning, their approvals, implementations, and finally costs, the progress towards what should no longer be a disadvantage has come to a halt. It seems like Facebook is taking this subject with a lot of interest.
Legal Status: The Internet Needs a Magna Carta
Security and privacy are just two of the challenges that face the Internet today, but there are also other pending areas like the topic of open infrastructures and the protection of content.
Tim Berners-Lee proposes a “Magna Carta” or a constitution for that terrain which for now is not any one person’s, but everybody’s. He talks about “a global constitution, a letter of rights”. In his opinion, the Internet should be a “neutral” medium that can be used without feeling like someone is “looking at your back”. Without this “neutral Internet” there are no transparent governments nor good democracies.
He is not the only one to express his concerns. Eric Schmidt, president of Google’s board of directors, noted in a column in The New York Times that in the next decade, 5 thousand million people will connect to the Internet, the majority from countries where the web has been censored.
“Internet is no one’s land”, assured the lawyer Carolina Botero: “There are always rights and responsibilities; the important thing is that they be for everybody: for the users, the intermediaries, the States, for everyone”. That way the web will continue to be collaborative and limitless.
Happy Anniversary, then, to the WWW, and hopefully there will be many more.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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