SALT LAKE CITY — Thirty years ago Tuesday, CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee published a description of a global hypertext system that would allow for automated information sharing between academics around the world. That system would become the World Wide Web, and it would revolutionize the way the world communicates.
Since the first webpage was published on the web in 1991, more than 1.9 billionwebsites have been created, giving the world access to international communication, social media, online libraries, online shopping and much more.
Today, we’re looking back at some of the best, some of the worst and some of the most impactful things — aside from all those cat videos, of course — that the World Wide Web has brought us.
If you were a kid of the late '90s and early 2000s, you’re probably familiar with the Flash-animated comedy web series “Homestar Runner,” which mixes self-parody with pop culture references from the 1970s to 2000s
The series was created in book form around 1995, but it took off when the creators learned Flash and made a web comic out of it in 2000, according to i09.
“Homestar Runner” is well-known for its on-the-nose segments about different facets of the web. At the peak of its popularity, it was one of the most visited Flash cartoon websites on the internet. The site is still up, though with a different look.
'Gangnam Style' — YouTube
PSY’s “Gangnam Style” music video rapidly won the attention of the web in 2012 for its catchy beat, quirky look and galloping dance moves. To date, the video has been viewed over 3.3 billion times worldwide, making it the sixth most popular YouTube video of all time (Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee” video is the most viewed YouTube video with over 6 billion views).
Created in 2008 by Bennett Foddy, QWOP became known as “the most difficult game ever created.” Players use the keys "Q," "W," "O" and "P" to move the limbs of an Olympic runner and ideally get him to run 100 meters. What started out as a serious game quickly became one of the web’s funniest.
You can still play QWOP today.
The web was truly “shook” in 2015 when a social media user uploaded an image of a dress that, depending on how you look at it, looks either black and blue or gold and white.
Social media users around the world could not handle the chameleon-like nature of the dress, which, it turns out, was black and blue all along.
Social media movements
The web, and our ability to rapidly disseminate information through it, has revolutionized not only the way we communicate but also the tenor of our social and political conversations.
One of the most notable examples of this is the role of social media websites in the 2010-2012 Arab Spring that led to the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook enabled protestors to organize across the Middle East and speak out against oppression at the time, according to Wired.
Social media platforms have mobilized movements such as the #MeToo movement, which was first created in 2006 by Tarana Burke and soon became a massive social movement with women around the world sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment using #MeToo on social media.
Social media websites continue to play a key role in modern activist movements, though there has been increased concern about the role of social media in modern political and social events.
The Tide and Ice Bucket challenges
While it has mobilized movements of national and international significance, many that have led to positive change, the web has also mobilized a lot of not so positive movements, one such challenge being the Tide Pod Challenge of 2018.
Teens and adults around the country took to swallowing packets of laundry detergent last year to see if they could do it after several comments that the packets looked like pockets of candy surfaced on the web.
It isn’t the first, nor the last of its kind, but the web has certainly made those dangerous teenage trends a little more well-known.
Though there are some not great trends that have been sparked through the web, there are also some pretty good ones. In the summer of 2014, individuals all around the world took to social media to post videos of themselves participating in “the Ice Bucket Challenge” and encourage their followers to raise money for ALS.
Ice Bucket Challenge participants helped raise over $115 million dollars for ALS research, according to the New York Times.
Built communities and made knowledge more accessible
Probably the greatest impact the web has had on the world is to automate systems to make life easier for communities around the world, make information more accessible than ever and to build groups of people across the world.
Berners-Lee released a statement on the 30th birthday of the World Wide Web, expressing his mixed feelings about how far it’s come.
- “The web has become a public square, a library, a doctor’s office, a shop, a school, a design studio, an office, a cinema, a bank, and so much more,” Berners-Lee said. “And while the web has created opportunity, given marginalised groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.”
- Berners-Lee added, “Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it’s understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good. But given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.”