“Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity. For me, the best bit about the Web has been the spirit of collaboration. While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine. NFTs (non-fungible tokens), be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the Web.” With this statement last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, managed to do three things.
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He lent instant legitimacy to blockchain-based NFTs. Second, he revealed how he would finally monetize a creation that has so far been free and open. But the third one is the most intriguing—how the world could perhaps realize the original, yet unrealized, vision and philosophy of the Web.
About 45 years ago , as Ben Tarnoff writes in The Guardian, “A small team of scientists set up a computer terminal at one of its picnic tables and conducted an extraordinary experiment. Over plastic cups of beer, they proved that a strange idea called the internet could work.” Seeded by the US Advanced Research Project Agency and a bunch of allies, the internet was really two things: a wireless network that could route data packets of information to desired destinations, and second, a way to connect multiple wireless networks to the wired Arpanet network.
Computers talking to one another was networking, but networks talking to one another, or internetworking, was what was invented. The common language needed for its communication was created by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn of ARPA, the ‘inventors’ of internetworking, or what we now call the internet.
A lot of us think that the World Wide Web and the internet are the same, but they aren’t. The Web is the most popular way to access online data through hyperlinks and websites, while the internet, as explained above, is a vast network of computers and servers on which the World Wide Web operates. The internet was a tool for scientists, engineers and the military; the web made it accessible to everyone else.
Berners-Lee worked at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, where he developed the very first webpage; it went live in August 1991, is still active, and is probably the world’s first website (bit.ly/2SnA7zy). It was in 1994, however, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) founded by Tim Berners-Lee set up protocols, guidelines and standards for the web, and now-familiar terms like TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), IP (Internet Protocol) and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) were born.
The founding philosophy of the Web was for it to serve as a democratizer and equalizer, to empower the long tail and eliminate monopolies and intermediaries. The Web did solve three big problems for us: an information problem with search and wikis, a communication problem with email and messenger tools, and a distribution problem with file-sharing and e-commerce.
But it could not address the two big problems that it was supposed to solve: one of trust and security, and another of disintermediation—its original philosophy. In fact, the rise of big tech companies has given us intermediaries that are far more powerful than ever before. They literally own most of our online data and information. In that sense, they own us.
The reason for the excitement around blockchain is that it is supposed to solve our unsolved problems—of trust and of inequality—and thereby bring us closer to the original vision of Time Berners-Lee and his co-conspirators. So, it is not surprising what he said in the Financial Times, as he announced that Sotheby’s would auction off the original source code of the Web: The NFT project was his “first foray into crypto”, but he saw similarities in his original vision for the web and the philosophy behind the decentralized network of Ethereum’s blockchain, which underpins most NFTs.
It also resonates with his latest project, Solid, which is designed to give us back control of our personal data. “The blockchain and Solid communities share the motivations of wanting to empower people,” he said, adding that blockchain projects were motivated by resistance to central control. Much like the open, democratic and decentralized origins of the Web.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.