Why I no longer believe in the web

Huge clickbait subject line today. Sorry. Today’s message falls under the category of ‘random shower thoughts’.

I came across the World Wide Web for the first time in 1993. At the time I wasn’t hugely interested in computers or technology. I was studying psychology.

One of my fellow students became extremely excited by the WWW around the time when NCSA’s Mosaic browser was launched. His enthusiasm was infectious. We started spending time in the psychology department computer lab together poking around the web and working out how to author our own web pages.

At the time, I didn’t imagine that I would have a job, let alone a whole career creating World Wide Web sites. This early enthusiasm and excitement about a new medium lasted for at least ten years into my career. And we needed enthusiasm, because the whole experience was extremely chaotic that entire time (and still is).

25 years on, I’ve lost most of that early enthusiasm for a new, raw medium. The web has become something else altogether. Many of the possibilities have been realised. But many unexpected disappointments at the direction the web has taken have also cropped up.

I no longer believe in the web unconditionally as I did in my early career. I used to believe in it the medium as a whole.

But now that I’m a tired old man, I’ve changed my stance. Back then, every problem looked like a nail in need of my web-based hammer. These days I’m more interested in how the web can be used as part of a more holistic approach to a problem. The web is not an end unto itself.

After all, the word medium is very broadly defined by Meriam Webster as ‘a means of effecting or conveying something’. Means, not ends.

All the best,

– Jim

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