My 10/04/09 Missoulian column
It’s about time to wrap-up this brief history of the Internet before it turns into a book, which would only probably take a few more weeks.
But we can’t ignore the biggest change over the years since the early days: Just who gets to put “stuff” on the Internet? That may sound like an crazy question (who doesn’t get to participate in the Internet?), but the way the Internet works now isn’t the way it always worked.
From ARPANET to our current “Age of Facebook,” the gap between the readers and the users of the Internet and those behind the curtain pulling the strings (think the Wizard of Oz) has closed to almost nothing.
You used to have to be a researcher who had access to the Internet, knew cryptic computer languages and could use numerical network addresses like 184.108.40.206.
Now, it’s to the point where you you have to be a hermit living in a cabin to not be participating in the Internet in some form.
Think of the simple things we do on the Internet: the ability to go to an online forum and ask questions or browse answers, look through a vast library, cruise Facebook, apply to college or run a business.
You’re participating, not just reading. You’re making content, not just absorbing it. It’s so different, it’s staggering.
And part of such incredible change has to be the question of what has disappeared – and a lot has.
Web sites disappear when the creator hits delete. It’s a digital throwaway life. Organizations get absorbed, businesses go under, people pass on.
There is an organization that’s trying to archive parts of the Web, but under the rate of change, it’s simply an impossible job. But you can check out the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, where you can type in a Web site address and click “Take Me Back” in order to see what’s been saved for posterity.
At any rate, the rate of change of – and what appears and disappears – on the Internet will only increase.