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The web at 25: Where next?

As the world wide web celebrates its birthday, Simon takes stock of what's happened so far, and the big tests ahead...

Even nostalgia isn't what it used to be. In days gone by, going dewy eyed over something important that happened even a decade or two before relied as much on people telling stories and recalling events.

Factual accuracy? Not necessarily a requirement, as a combination of anecdotes and history books ruled the world. They sort of still do. But now, a simple minute or two on Google now gives a selection of facts and a plethora of opinions within seconds. There's barely even time to pour a reflective drink.

But then that's how progress pans out. The world wide web is effectively 25 years old today (in that it's a quarter of a century since Sir Tim Berners-Lee pitched the idea of it), and you don't need another article on the internet to tell you just how much of an impact on day to day life it's had (in truth, for most people, the world wide web has only really been impacting their lives for six or seven years less than that anyway).

That's notwithstanding the fact that what's interesting instead is the thought of what would happen if the plug on the world wide web was pulled tomorrow, and what the ramifications of that would be.

In many, but not all, places on the planet, the world wide web's impact has been sizeable, sending many traditional businesses to the wall, and bringing in many new ones to dominate in their place. It's impossible to remove from modern day life. Indeed, it's almost unthinkable that life could carry on without it. It's like a dishwasher, but on a far wider scale.

The future may not be bright

Yet the large question that inevitably remains unanswered is the one that comes next: just where does the world wide web go from here? At what stage does its progress dissipate? And at what stage do the benefits of joining the world up to such a technology become overshadowed by the drawbacks?

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