Boring but trustworthy: Life without the World Wide Web

2019-03-11 23:38:26

Imagine a world where instead of uploading your latest family photo to your timeline, you're sending it via airmail to friends and family.

Without Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the internet, that is a world we could have lived in.

Thirty years ago, the British scientist came up with an idea to create an accessible and easy-to-use front end for the internet, resulting in the invention of the humble web browser. Since then, we've experienced a rollercoaster ride of internet experiences from MySpace to TikTok.

The World Wide Web has given people around the globe the chance to connect in a way that was never possible.

Originally labelled "vague but exciting" by his boss, Bernes-Lee's proposal has evolved to become an integral part of our society.

So, where would we be without it?

#Influencer wouldn't be a job title

With the rise of social media platforms, anyone with an internet connection can share their life with the world. In 2018, there were around 3.2 billion active social media, according to We Are Social's global digital report. The popularity of Instagram and Youtube has even allowed people to forge careers out of sharing content.

These platforms are also popular with brands who create specific social media strategies to target customers around the world. In New Zealand, the All Blacks (4.6 million fans), Tourism New Zealand (3.1 million fans) and the Blackcaps (1.7 million fans) are amongst the most popular Facebook brand accounts.

Different generations have gravitated towards different platforms, so the absence of such websites and apps would effect a range of demographics. The majority of users on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Twitter are aged between 18 and 29, while Youtube's main age demographic is between 35 and 44. However, Facebook also has a strong following of users aged 50 and over, according to Spredfast's Social Audience Guide.

In addition to the absence of sharing images and content, communication would be a big issue and our main methods would most likely be phone calls, mail and telegraphs.

On the downside we'd all have incredibly expensive phone bills, but on the plus side, our penmanship would be excellent and we'd be able to send a telegraph in record time.

Entertainment would be boring

Without the pressing concern of digital streaming services taking over the world of entertainment, television and radio wouldn't see the need to continuously improve.

Towards the end of 2018, almost 2 million Kiwis were subscribed to Netflix, but if that wasn't an option, these people would still be solely relying on television and radio for entertainment.

The way in which we receive news would also be dramatically different. Breaking stories wouldn't be shared with the public immediately via social media or push notifications on phones, instead, we would still be waiting for the next newspaper or nightly news bulletin.

However, a benefit of this alternate technology universe would be the absence of fake news and conspiracy theories. Fake news has been on the rise in recent years with millions of people falling for these digital jokes on a daily basis.

Shopping would require you to leave the house

Forget ordering clothes online, having your favourite takeout meal delivered at the click of a button, or even paying for things online. Without Berners-Lee's invention, we would have to leave the house to do all of that. Also, the rise of payment platforms such as Afterpay, PartPay and Laybuy have meant online purchases are now easier and more affordable.

But without any these payment options, we would need to go to the bank, the supermarket, and the restaurant ourselves. The Christchurch student who ordered Uber Eats 73 times in one week would surely struggle.

As a result, rural towns and city centres would most likely flourish with more people relying on brick and mortar shops for their daily tasks and purchases.

Professional advice would be trusted

Without the ability to self-diagnose based on information found online, doctors would be completely entrusted with diagnosing and treating any ailments.

Healthcare group BUPA found 60 per cent of us search online for a diagnosis of specific symptoms we're experiencing, despite the fact they also found 47 per cent of common symptom searches resulted in terminal illnesses.

Though it has innovated the way in which we communicate, engage and seek information, the web has also grown to include some negative and harmful elements, for example the recent Momo challenge. Berners-Lee even admitted the internet has "failed rather than served humanity".

To combat the dangerous path it is following, he created a new project called Solid, which "gives every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements, and which apps you use".

"I've always believed the web is for everyone. That's why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we've managed to bring have created a better and more connected world," he wrote in a blog post last year.

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