I am reporting on hallowed ground this week.
CERN is where the World Wide Web began. In this current climate of billion dollar internet takeovers, it pays to examine where it all started and what can be learned.
Berners-Lee and Cailliau began their hypertext project as a way sharing information faster between researchers. Period.
No grandiose business case, no consultants; just a motivating force to get access to the files they needed across the network.
A couple of years later CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free for anyone to use. Hypertext doesn’t ask you to pay five cents every time you connect through to a link. It could, just like a telephone call. The fact that it doesn’t shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Compare the design of the web to the design of MySpace and rise of blogging software.
Most people emailed and instant messaged once the web was up and running.
But if they didn’t have the html skills to build a web-site (or didn’t know a fourteen year old computer science student who would work for peanuts), then the extent to which they could fully engage with the web – sharing pictures, video and posting their own news and views – would always be limited.
When sites like MySpace and software like WordPress came along, they really didn’t innovate. They just made it easier for the majority to use what was already there.
In all the reports I’ve about Microsoft buying Yahoo I’ve seen, no one has really picked up on the fact that combining one bad search engine with another really won’t be worth squat to web users – and ultimately advertisers – if it doesn’t make things easier for people to network within the world wide web.