The Web Is Not The Net

Hey, Vsauce. Michael here. Mimas is one of Saturn’s cutest moons. Its entire surface area is about the
same as Spain but its giant crater makes it look like the Death Star. And when NASA made a temperature map of Mimas, they found that the warmest
regions, shown here in yellow, resemble Pac-Man eating the crater like a dot. I learned about Mimas whilst surfing the world wide web like a true internaut. But the Web and the Internet are different things. The World
Wide Web and the Internet have names that are
similar shapes but they catch different things. And, as we will see, surfing the world wide web is radical but it’s also apropos. Metaphorically speaking the web is pretty wet. Before the web existed, and before the Internet existed, there were computers but they were big and lonely. They couldn’t really talk to one another. I mean, sure, you could connect similar
pieces of hardware that spoke similar protocols but that was just a network. To connect disparate global machines you would need a network of networks. And in the 1960s a bunch of
brilliant minds collaborated on just such a thing. Now, at the time, the phone
companies weren’t very interested and because no single institution could
foot the entire responsibility and computing power needed for dedicated lines… Well, more innovative and efficient methods were used. A system spanning many nations is international. So, a system spanning many networks is an Internetwork. It wouldn’t be until 1974, in this very document, that the word Internetwork would be officially shortened to what we
use today – Internet. On October 29th, 1969, exactly 100 days after we first landed on a distant rock across space, we first landed a letter on a distant screen across the Internet.
Leonard Kleinrock and a team at UCLA decided to send the word ‘login’ to a different model of computer at Stanford. They sent the ‘L’ and it arrived. They sent the ‘O’ and it arrived. And then the system crashed. But still, the first message sent over an Internet was a big deal. On a list of
technological achievements it would rank quite high, even though it was literally lo… Fast-forward two decades. CERN is working on a lot of
different projects with different people and technologies to figure out who or what is doing what… You can just look it up on the Internet.
But the way information was organized on the internet was illogical. Based on hierarchies, linearly, it was lame. And this annoyed a guy named Tim Berners-Lee. You see, you could follow a
tree for a really long time only to reach a person or technology
involved in some other project and for information on that you have to
go back to the beginning and start all over again. So, in March of 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a powerful paper simply titled
“Information management: A Proposal.” He argued that notes with links, like references, between them is far more
useful than a fixed hierarchical system. Instead of trees, Berners-Lee was proposing a web. Webbed systems that connect documents
in nonlinear ways already existed. They were called hypertext.
But Tim Berners-Lee officiated the marriage of hypertext
webs and the Internet to produce a web that was worldwide.
It was the vast connected logical and useful partnership needed to make the
Internet the most quickly adopted form of communication in our species’ history. The Internet connects participants, the web connects information.
Specifically hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. You can see the computer Tim Berners-Lee
created the world wide web with in the London Science Museum.
Twenty-five years ago if you had unplugged this computer you
would have literally shut down the entire web. The first website was Today it
provides a simulator that allows you to view the web as it appeared as a baby. We’ve come a long way since this.
If you really want your mind blown, check out Onesecond[] on the web.
You can see how many Facebook likes, Tweets and even e-mails
are sent every second and how many have been sent since you
first opened the page. Isaac Asimov once said that Earth should
have been named ocean because the sea is its dominant feature. Our oceans are vast and dangerous and deep and mysterious.
So, it’s no mystery that when people needed a metaphor to describe the Internet and the seemingly endless and often uncharted web of hypertext it delivered, they ran for the sea. We surf the web, navigating streams of data. There are pirates and
floods and phishing. Even blogs and vlogs have their
linguistic origins in logs – records originally kept by
captains at sea. Like liquid water, the web is a phenomenal solvent. It makes material widely accessible and available. It has been estimated that every web
page is an average of only 19 clicks away from every other web page. Like our oceans, the web is really just one global sea. And like our oceans, the web is an ecosystem we need to be careful to protect. It is flexible and flowing, and as we are finding out, the web, like liquid water, is something
you can see yourself in. In the 1990s, Douglas Rushkoff coined the term screenagers to describe a generation
that for the first time ever was growing up to think that images on screens weren’t just something to passively stare at, but, instead, were something to be manipulated. Well, today it’s even more extreme. The tools and connectivity, provided by
the Web, allow us to think of images on screens not just as things to manipulate but as things to project our own identities onto. Not everyone who does this is a
professional storyteller or acclaimed poet or coherent. But, content aside, hyperlinked webs of
human expression are incredibly rich enviroments and they exercise the brain, more so than books? Well, for the sake of argument, let’s read from “Everything Bad is Good for You,” a book by Steven Johnson. Now, in this passage he imagines a world in which books were invented after video games and the World Wide Web. Kids everywhere are starting to read
these new fangled books and teachers and parents are
concerned. He imagines they might say something like this: “Perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in
any fashion. You simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. For those of us raised on interactive
narratives, this property may seem astonishing. Why would anyone want to
embark on an adventure utterly choreographed by another
person? But today’s generation embarks on such
adventures millions of times a day. Reading is not an active participatory process, it’s a submissive one. The book readers of the younger
generation are learning to follow the plot instead of learning to lead.” Interesting. But you might be thinking, come on, Michael, you can’t set content aside that easily. What about all the dumb and superficial
stuff the web propagates? I mean, surely a lot of it is just completely
useless. We’re humans, after all, we should be valuing reason. Maybe. But is that really what makes us special?
As Unamuno said, “more often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly. But then perhaps, also inwardly,
a crab resolves equations of the second degree.” What if cheap
laughs and sappy poems and gossip and whining and drama and selfies really are the most human thing the web has allowed us to do? That’s deep. But not as deep as the Deep Web, the hidden web. The part of the web invisible to search engines. Now, most of this stuff
is innocuous content hidden behind pay walls or password protection or dynamically created web pages. But we haven’t even indexed this stuff.
And it’s not 1% of the web, it’s not 10%. It’s 80% of the entire World Wide Web. The web is a deep ocean and we are frantically making waves in it.
For instance, take a look at real time emoji usage on Twitter and say a few
words of encouragement to be least popular emoji.
We are also exploring the web frantically. It’s an entirely new
frontier. Every single day Google receives 500 million search queries it has never been asked before. Where will all of this exploration lead? Who knows? But to go back to our metaphor,
the very same suits we built to explore the depths of the ocean inspired and enabled the suits we would later use to go beyond Earth. So, keep exploring, keep surfing. And as always, thanks for watching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *