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Expecting the Future

April 15th 2016

The CERN team setup the first website in order to share information.  Email, which had been going since 1971, was simply too cumbersome and restrictive but most of all did not allow users to self search what they were interested in.

It took the Internet 3 years to reach 50million users.  By comparison, it took TV 13 years to reach the same milestone and radio 18 years.  And users quickly realised that information could be dynamic – the first webcam was connected in 1993 at Cambridge University.  It gave a real time view of the lab coffee pot.

Today about 40% of the world’s 7bn inhabitants are connected to the web.  China has the highest single country number at 720million whereas Norway has the highest penetration at 95%.  In fact in 2010 Finland became the first country to codify that internet access was a legal right.

Today the Internet is of course ubiquitous.  There are some 1014 million live websites.  Just getting to the right one has created an industry on its own.  Each Google search uses upwards of 1,000 processors to return the answer in around 0.2 seconds.  Gartner estimates that over 5 million new devices are connected to the Internet of Things every day. And the latest estimate is that 19% of couples in the developed world first “met” on the Internet.

Given it’s hold over the planet, the Internet is owned by everyone and no one.  In a remarkably quaint legacy, each quarter just 14 people meet at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to decide how the web will work.  And despite their best efforts, a .com name is still preferred – with over 100,000 new .com names registered daily.

But some evils have escaped.  30,000 websites are hacked daily.  90% of email traffic is spam.  Overall, only 40% of Internet traffic is human generated – the rest is driven by bots.  Against all the websites that you can usually see, there are at least 100 time as many lurking beneath the surface – the so-called Deep Web, the Internet’s equivalent of dark matter.

Of course, the Internet is neither good nor bad.  Just as a cornucopia does not guarantee happiness – too much of a good thing can be unhealthy – so too do we remember that Pandora’s box still contained hope and expectation.

And 9,000 days since the first website went live, you can still see it at  Worth a look if you’ve nostalgia for the old times.

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