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25 years of the web, where do we go from here?

Rose Riley Commercial Director (UK)

Sir Tim Berners Lee

I cannot imagine the world without the web. I was 5 years old when Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented his glorious creation, the impact of which has been beyond anything that people in 1989 could have conceived. Precedent was launched that very same year, destined to have the web at the very heart of everything we do.

But what has 25 years of the web really meant? And where do we go from here?

Eric Schmidt has said that “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

The last year has seen our collective lack of understanding of the internet brought to the fore, particularly in relation to privacy and security. Previously, most people believed that caring about your personal security online meant not writing down your online banking password, or not being rude about your boss on Facebook. But Edward Snowdon’s whistleblowing exercise has exposed the way in which governments are using the internet to gather vast swathes of data on their citizens, and we are only now starting to wake up to awe inspiring, and potentially terrifying ways in which digital data can be used.

So what now? How do we improve our collective understanding? And do we try to control the anarchy?

The Web We Want campaign, set up by Sir Tim’s World Wide Web foundation, is arguing that safe guarding the democratic nature of the web is a fundamental part of ensuring our basic human right of freedom of speech and belief. It envisages a ‘free, open and truly Global’ internet, protected by a bill of rights, or internet Magna Carta. A worthy vision indeed, but one that will only be achieved if we all take a personal level of responsibility, to understand how and why the internet is being used, and to stand up to governments which have to date, unscrupulously taken advantage of our collective apathy.

For me, 25 years of the web has meant growth, opportunity, and a form of globalisation that has broken down barriers to allow us to be closer than ever before. Speaking to my cousins on skype - they in south Australia, me in south London - is just one of the many beautiful things the web has done. But as a free and open place, the web represents both the best and the worst of humanity. In order to protect it from misuse, be that from criminals or governments, we must work together to define and maintain the web we want.

We couldn’t be in better company, celebrating our landmark 25th year in digital with the invention that has changed the world and provided me with a career.