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August 15, 2008

Internet. What Internet?

GLOBAL – When I read Charlie’s piece for OneWebDay, I pulled him up on his
crazy claim of being online for 25 years. Not possible, I reckoned, as
the web as we know it has only been around since the 90s. 25 years is a
ridiculous claim. What I failed to acknowledge (and here’s where
Charlie reveals his age) was that Charlie was in college in the US
during the 80s. And in 80s US colleges, they had things like BitNet.
Hell, they even had email addresses. No, not the web as we know it
today, but a web of sorts nonetheless. His claim now has a qualifier.

It made me think though. Here we are, 25 years after one of our number first sent data over a phone line, and yet there’s a significant portion of the global population (probably a quarter) who’ve never even heard of, never mind used, the Internet.

Mobile phones are going to help change this. Sure, it’s an oft-patterred mantra from Espoo, but it’s one I truly believe in, and one that genuinely excites me. When Jan Chipchase revealed his research at the design event the other month I was captivated by how people in third world countries saw the Internet, and what it meant to them.

But as Charlie all those years ago (when he had hair) sent his first message, I’m sure he had no idea what the Internet would become today. Indeed, no matter how hard we tax our brains into thinking about it, there’s little we know about the Internet of tomorrow. It is, afterall, changing and evolving on a daily, even hourly, basis. So to those who’ve yet to see it, what will their first impression be, when they pull back the curtains of restraint, to reveal a window on the world they couldn’t even have imagined. Is that for them more magical than us trying to think about the next generation of the Internet? Could it be more mysterious, exciting, or revealing? Or would they just not give a damn and instead get on and use it. Perhaps all of the above. Thoughts please?

Picture by Tjeerd