Technology

The web and me: A 25-year relationship

Image copyright Getty Images

Twenty-five years ago Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at a physics laboratory at CERN, in Switzerland, when he came up with a proposal for the World Wide Web.

Since then the web has become a system used across the world to allow people to share and access information.

A selection of people whose lives have been transformed or influenced by the web explain what it has meant to them.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

Quarter of a century after his proposal for the world wide web was put forward could Sir Tim Berners-Lee have had any idea how his creation would turn out?

"No idea at all.

"It was really important that it could have anything on it, but the idea that it would end up with almost everything on it - that seemed like a crazy idea at the time.

"As to making lots of money? If I'd made it something which was a proprietary system then it would not have taken off. The only reason it took off is because people were prepared to invest in it because it's open and free.

"There were all kinds of names at the start: the Mine of Information, which would have been MOI; or TIM, The Information Mine.

"The word 'World' was global, which was important. And 'Web'? Mathematically it's a web and gives the "impression that you can connect anything to anything.

"'WWW' didn't trip off the tongue for people in other countries but it was an acronym no-one else had used."

Howard Davies-Carr, creator of Charlie bit my finger

Image copyright Howard Davies-Carr
Image caption Harry winces as Charlie bites his finger

Howard Davies-Carr's two children became online stars after he uploaded a video of his baby son Charlie biting the finger of his older brother Harry.

The clip has now been viewed more than 670 million times on YouTube. Mobile phone apps have been created based on it and it has even been spoofed by Hollywood celebrities and a top director.

"The web hasn't changed my life. I haven't let it.

"We didn't go looking for anything when we posted the video and we didn't expect anything.

"I knew I would send the link for the video to friends and family and that people would be able to share a funny moment - I didn't expect any more than that.

"But I am amazed at the level of contact with people that posting the video on the web has produced. We've been contacted by people all over the world - different ages, nationalities and religions. They all have a story.

"People have reached out and said the video has helped them through traumatic times. If their kids have been in hospital or they're having a bad time, they say they've watched it and it's cheered them up.

"The reach of the web is amazing.

"Lots of people don't own computers but might have a phone that lets them look at videos on the web.

"Harry and Charlie are growing up always connected. They have tablets and take for granted going to the web to find something out or see what someone is doing. They have no concept that this didn't exist before."

Steve Pankhurst, founder of Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited can be regarded as the first social network to take off in the UK. It allowed people to reconnect with old school friends.

At its peak it had 15 million members and in 2005 ITV bought the site for £175m, making its founders overnight millionaires.

Steven Pankhurst explains what the web has meant to him personally.

"I have worked from home since the early 1990s. Back then it was a lonely existence. The odd phone call and the radio were my only link to the outside world and other people.

"Fast forward to now. As I write this, my Twitter feed is constantly updating. I have just stopped and gone off to watch a YouTube video of an old band, I've read an article about Bitcoins, and followed a funny conversation about X Factor.

"My Facebook has just pinged with a comment about a photo I posted earlier.

"In the space of that paragraph three emails have come in - distractions again. I click away and answer them.

"This is how I (and probably others) now work. Short bursts of concentration punctuated with lots of noise and distractions. It's great though - I wouldn't have it any other way.

"The web has made me feel connected to the whole world in ways I couldn't have imagined.

"I feel we have only scratched the surface of what can be done. Twenty-five years have flown past - think what has been achieved and what is still to come."

Laura Olin, former director of social strategy, Obama 2012 campaign

Image copyright Chris Dilts
Image caption Laura Olin on the Obama 2012 campaign trail

In November 2012 Barack Obama was elected for a second term as President of the United States. His campaign for re-election was one of the biggest digital political campaigns in history.

A photo posted on his Twitter account with the caption "four more years" became the most retweeted Twitter post ever (it has since been overtaken by a selfie from the Oscars)

Laura Olin ran President Obama's Twitter account and posted that photo.

"The web has changed a lot of things about campaigning, but most crucially, it's changed who gets involved in the political process.

"It became much easier for regular people to form powerful movements around candidates who would represent them rather than the interests of a few rich donors.

"Without online fundraising and organising, it's hard to imagine that then-Senator Obama could have risen in 2008 from a long-shot candidate to win the presidency.

"In 2012, the web also changed campaigning by offering ways to simply make it more fun, which is a good opportunity to get new people involved.

"We posted Obama family snapshots on Facebook, did Q&As with the first lady on YouTube, and posted GIFs and community art on Tumblr.

"Social media meant we had more platforms to reach people in 2012 than ever before. We made it our mission to make it as fun to follow the campaign on those channels as possible."

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