I recently read a Wired article about Tim Berners-Lee, a.k.a. the WWW’s Daddy in which he said “I want a web that’s open, works internationally, works as well as possible and is not nation-based.”
He was largely talking about the balkanization of the web in places like Iran – who have their own versions of it (intranets). So I probably shouldn’t take his quote out of context. But, I couldn’t help but see it as a stand-alone mandate to return to a borderless web.
I don’t want to sound like a cantankerous old Web 2.0 relic, but I miss the days when the web was indeed worldwide, when serendipity reigned and when, if you later happened upon something related to something you had been researching, it represented a sort of magic – rather than yet another search engine privacy incursion masked as user-friendly customization.
This was a web of Mahirs — genuine fluke sensations that represented the people’s will and a true sense of zeitgeist (not Google Zeitgeist). The aforementioned meme (which took place before the general public was calling them memes) bridged cultures worldwide: a Turkish man calling out into the void and the world listening. Could a Mahir situation take place on today’s web with its regionalized sub-divisions and digital borders? I think not.
But the search engines call this progress: they’re fine-tuning responses so you don’t just get ‘everything on the web,’ but rather what you’re seeking in your region or country. That assumes that you want to live in Main Street WWW. I personally do not.
Of course, as one friend of mine who works for a major Valley company points out, you do have choices. You don’t have to be relegated to the top three Big Boy search engines. There are services like Duck Duck Go, which offer searhc sans those pesky jurisdictional velvet ropes. But, let’s be honest, these often humble enterprises are otherwise lacking in features that we have come to appreciate and expect from biggies like Google, Bing and Yahoo!
At best, the worldwide web is a placeless place of virtually infinite options and possibilities; at worst, it’s a cyber-ghetto. My plea is not for the big search engines to completely go back in time and return absolutely to the borderless period circa Web 2.0. But, I’d love to have options — the option to occasionally conduct Old School searches that do actually span the globe (which so far hasn’t been offered by these search engines — at least not in an overt and easily accessible way). Other times, geotargeting will certainly be useful.
If this return to a sophisticated international web is not possible, might I suggest that a name change is in order? Instead of the world wide web; it should more appropriately be re-christened the (rather dumpy and low-rent sounding) localized loop.