Ode to a Hyperlink
Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked, I thought. Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which anything could be linked to anything.” — Tim Berners-Lee, “Weaving the Web”.
It all started with a simple link.
Contrary to popular belief, Tim Berners-Lee didn’t invent the concept of “hypertext”. There were guys like Ted Nelson and Doug Englebart toying with the concept back in the 1960’s. But Berners-Lee was the guy that did something remarkable with that concept. His vision, that any piece of information could be linked to any other piece of information, gave birth to what we know today as the World Wide Web. Not since the invention of the telephone has there been such a fundamental shift in the way human beings communicate.
And it’s kind of throwing us for a loop, don’t you think?
I’m a firm believer that in order to know where we are going, we must know where we have come from. That’s why Berners-Lee’s book, “Weaving the Web”, sits beside me while I work away on my computers every day, exploring and creating and expanding my understanding of what is really going on in this new medium. I reference it often, for I find that for all the time we spend trying to figure out what all this Web 2.0 business is about, much of it has already been put forth by guys like Berners-Lee.
Though we originally took the Web to be a simply a means of presenting information, Berners-Lee actually invented the Web as a means of communication and collaboration. 12 years after its rise in popularity, we are finally figuring that part out. It’s not wrong that we didn’t get it right away. It was necessary for it to evolve to that point.
When Alexander Graham Bell first invented the telephone, he had spend a lot of time convincing the rest of the world of its usefulness. It wasn’t immediately apparent. After all, if I wanted to talk to someone far away, I could just mail them a letter, and if I wanted to talk to my neighbour down the street, I could just go over to them. Why would I ever need to call them on a telephone?
Nearly 20 years passed from the time Bell invented the telephone until it was mainstream. The Web is no different. You see, the Web, like the telephone, was not something we knew we needed. That means we need to figure out what to do with it now that we’ve got it. It’s a process.
So here we are, at the end of 2008, and we are still on the journey that started with one little hyperlink. Everyday, millions and millions of new links are being made, and they aren’t just text on a page. The links are with real people, doing real things. As a result, movements are starting. 12for12k.org is one of them. There are many others. People are realizing that social media is about much, much more than just chatting till all hours of the night with a bunch of people you’ve never met in person. It’s even about more than just promoting your business. It’s about finding ways that we can help one another to learn, to grow, to succeed, in whatever it is we set out to do.
So how are you going to make more links in 2009?
Nice post. Thought provoking. In fact, I have a theory about this. It’s based on nothing more than my own thoughts but I will put it out there anyway.
The Internet’s impact on the 21st Century and beyond will be as profound as the steam engine’s was on the 19th and 20th Centuries.
The invention of the steam engine did more than revolutionize manufacturing. Actually, manufacturing didn’t exist, as we know it, before it’s invention. Factories lead to a manufacturing based economy, which impacted where people lived, the distribution of wealth/rise of the middle class and eventually the social laws we take for granted like the abolishing slavery, education for all, welfare, etc..
I believe that the internet will have an equally profound impact on our lives. We are already experiencing this. A small, but not insignificant example was how we learned of the the attacks in Mumbai. Within seconds the news was around the world via Twitter. Our economy is no longer location dependent, as a manufacturing economy is. Now the work goes where the talent is whether that’s India or Omaha.
We will see many changes like this in our lifetimes and many we can’t predict. I, for one, am looking forward to participating in all this change.
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I actually learned all about what you’ve written about here in my communication in technology class last year. It was very interesting to find out the genesis of something that we take for granted today. I am an older student, or I was as I graduated this past Dec, but even at my age, I can’t imagine not being able to click to wherever I want to find information. I love living in the 21st century!
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