The Web Is Not The Net

published on July 20, 2020

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 infocernch 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

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