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9/14/2006
05:05 PM
Valerie Potter
Valerie Potter
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Thank Heaven For The Web

A significant tech anniversary quietly slipped by last month. Fifteen years ago, Tim Berners-Lee made public a little project he was working on. He called it the WorldWideWeb.

A significant tech anniversary quietly slipped by last month. Fifteen years ago, Tim Berners-Lee made public a little project he was working on. He called it the WorldWideWeb.In our story "The Online Supernova: 15 Years Of The World Wide Web," we trace the history of this meteoric medium, from its beginnings as an obscure information-sharing tool for scientific researchers to its status today as social networking mecca. It's truly an amazing journey.

Nowadays the Web even has its own holiday: OneWebDay, to be celebrated for the first time one week from today. According to its Web site, "The mission of OneWebDay is to create, maintain, advance, and promote a global day to celebrate online life." How do we do that? The site has a few decidedly Web 2.0 suggestions:

  • Post a picture to Webshots.com and tag it with the keyword "onewebday"--it will become part of a huge, worldwide photo collage.

  • Make a video in honor of the Web and post it on Blip.tv with a "onewebday" tag to have it included in a video presentation on Dabble.com.

  • Blog about how the Web has changed your life.

    Well, shoot--you don't have to ask me twice.

    In 1994, I was working for a computer book publisher in San Francisco when I began hearing buzz about a new medium: the World Wide Web. ("It's the Internet, but with pictures.") After a quick demo, I was hooked. I maneuvered my way onto Web-related book projects, learned HTML, and won the envy of my colleagues by being one of the first editors in my office to get Netscape. (We didn't call it getting Internet access or getting a Web browser. We called it getting Netscape.)

    By late 1995, the dot-com hiring boom had begun in earnest. Book editors began jumping ship left and right to join online startups. Who wouldn't? Why stay with boring old book publishing when you could be creating a new form of media? I went to CNET.com in 1996, and I've been in Web publishing ever since.

    While it's only natural that I was excited about the Web back then, what surprises me is that I'm still excited about it, if for different reasons. It's fascinating to look back at the early browsers and Web sites--they were indeed technological marvels--but today's Web tools let us do so much more. These days you don't have to be in publishing to have a public voice: Anyone with a computer and Net access (preferably broadband) can write a blog, upload a video, or map their friends on Google Maps.

    It's not all sunshine and lollipops, of course. Today's social networking sites must deal with issues of copyright, privacy, cyberstalking, and more. We all have to worry about what private information--true or false--about us is out there somewhere on the Web, and who might have access to it. But overall I can't help but be glad I work in a medium that's changing and growing every day.

    OneWebDay is fast approaching. Come on, pitch in: What was your first experience with the Web? What's your favorite thing about the Web today? How would you like to see the Web change in the future? Share your thoughts and stories below.

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