The history of the GIF—a tale of licensing, compression, and standards.
A deep dive into the history of Gopher. For a while there, it looked like it was going to be bigger than the World Wide Web.
This article is filled with timely details:
The programmers were young guys, mostly in their 20s and, like McCahill, mostly huge Nirvana fans. Paul Lindner, a coding wunderkind from northern Minnesota who was dubbed the Gopher Dude for his evangelism, had long metal-head hair and signed Gopher emails with lyrics like “You have to spit to see the shine” from Babes in Toyland. Early Gopher servers were named Mudhoney, Danzig, and Anthrax.
Ah, Babes In Toyland! It’s like the soundtrack to my time in art college in the early 90s. I remember one of the best gigs ever being a triple bill of The Sultans Of Ping, Babes In Toyland, and Theraphy? at Sir Henrys in Cork.
The ancestors of the Internet were kind enough to give us a communication standard which is free, transparent, and standardized. It would be a shame to see the tech communication landscape move further and further into the world of locked gardens and proprietary schemas.
From the ARPANET to the internet, this is a great history of the Domain Name System:
Root DNS servers operate in safes, inside locked cages. A clock sits on the safe to ensure the camera feed hasn’t been looped. Particularly given how slow DNSSEC implementation has been, an attack on one of those servers could allow an attacker to redirect all of the Internet traffic for a portion of Internet users. This, of course, makes for the most fantastic heist movie to have never been made.
The World Wide Web, with all of its pages, blogs and so on- has allowed human expression in ways that would have been uneconomic and out of reach before. The most dramatic effect has been this ability for almost anyone to express himself or herself whenever they want to- and potentially be heard by many others.
Vint Cerf there, taking part in this wide-ranging discussion with, among others, Kevin Kelly and Bob Metcalfe.
The introduction leans a bit too heavily on Nicholas Carr for my liking, but it ends up in a good place.
The internet connects us cognitively and becomes a membrane through which our minds can interact, manifesting a whole new iteration of our species, who have begun to exist in a connected symbiotic relationship with technology.
The internet is the first technology we have created, that makes us more human.
The video of my talk on hypertext at the HTML Special before CSS Day. I’m pretty with my delivery here. There’s a bit of Q&A afterwards as well.
Dan Gillmor and Kevin Marks report on the Decentralized Web Summit:
Kahle framed the gathering with three key questions: How can we build a reliable decentralized web? How can we make it more private? And how do we keep it fun and evolving?
A wonderful deep dive into the history of styling languages before CSS. I love spelunking down these internet history potholes—fascinating stuff!
It is a sad and beautiful world wide web:
The technology that let people make web sites never went away. You can still set up a site as if it were 1995. But culture changes, as do expectations. It takes a certain set of skills to create your own web site, populate it with cool stuff, set up a web server, and publish your own cool-stuff web pages. I would argue that those skills should be a basic part of living in a transparent and open culture where individuals are able to communicate on an equal field of play. Some fellow nerds would argue the same. But most everyone else, statistically, just uses Facebook and plays along.
Paul Ford shines a light on the solution:
Standing against this tide of centralization is the indie web movement. Perhaps “movement” is too strong—it’s more an aesthetic of independence and decentralization. The IndieWebCamp web page states: “When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation.” You should own your information and profit from it. You should have your own servers. Your destiny, which you signed over to Facebook in order to avoid learning a few lines of code, would once again be your own.
Beautiful, beautiful writing:
We could still live in that decentralized world, if we wanted to. Despite the rise of the all-seeing database, the core of the internet remains profoundly open. I can host it from my apartment, on a machine that costs $35. You can link to me from your site. Just the two of us. This is an age of great enterprise, no time to think small. Yet whatever enormous explosion tears through our digital world next will come from exactly that: an individual recognizing the potential of the small, where others see only scale.
From twenty years ago, a look back at the origins of the internet, written by its creators.
An in-depth, thoroughly-researched look at the threatened health of the web. It’s grim reading, for the most part, but there’s a glimmer of hope towards the end.
“The web is already decentralized,” Mr. Berners-Lee said. “The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a social problem.”
The history of Facebook’s attempt to steamroll over net neutrality in India …and how they failed in that attempt, thanks to a grassroots campaign.
Crucially, Facebook itself would decide which sites were included on the platform. The company had positioned Internet.org as a philanthropic endeavour — backed by Zuckerberg’s lofty pronouncements that “connectivity is a human right” — but retained total control of the platform.
Oh, how I wish I could make it to this event!
June 8th-9th at Internet Archive, featuring Vint Cerf, Brewster Kahle, and more.
We are bringing together a diverse group of Web architects, activists, engineers, archivists, scholars, journalists, and other stakeholders to explore the technology required to build a Decentralized Web and its impact.
Chris’s homage to I, Pencil.
I, Website, am a complex combination of miracles.
A profile of the Internet Archive, but this time focusing on its physical space.
The Archive is a third place unlike any other.
The street finds its own uses for colonial internet practices:
Because the data is completely free, Angolans are hiding large files in Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia site (Angola is a former Portuguese colony)—sometimes concealing movies in JPEG or PDF files. They’re then using a Facebook group to direct people to those files, creating a robust, completely free file sharing network.
A really good explanation of how a peer-to-peer model for the web would differ from the current location-centric approach.
What really interests me is the idea of having both models co-exist.
You just have to think about the ways in which our location-centrism is contributing to the problems we are hitting, from the rise of Facebook, to the lack of findability of OER, to the Wikipedia Edit Wars.
Monika’s end-of-year piece is rather excellent:
The map exposes the network of fibre optic internet cables that lie deep below the sea giving an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them.
Good news for net neutrality from India:
No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.
How the Web Works: A Primer for Newcomers to Web Development (or anyone, really) by Preethi Kasireddy
This is a great reminder of the fundamental nuts’n’bolts of the internet and the World Wide Web: clients, servers, URLs, DNS, HTTP, TCP/IP, packet switching, and all the other building blocks we sometimes take for granted.
This is part one of a four-part series:
- A Primer for Newcomers to Web Development (or anyone, really)
- Client-Server Model & the Structure of a Web Application
- HTTP & REST
- Stay tuned…
Written in 2001, this history of the web takes in CERN, hypertext, the ARPANET, SGML, and lots more.
In a strikingly accurate replica of the original IMP log (crafted by UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History) on one of the room’s period desks is a note taken at 10:30 p.m., 29 October, 1969—“talked to SRI, host to host.” In the note, there is no sense of wonder at this event—which marks the first message sent across the ARPANET, and the primary reason the room is now deemed hallowed ground.
Suppose the internet is “rewiring our brains” …what of it? Perhaps we can also rewire the brain of the internet.
I’m getting more radical in my view of the internet, this unconsciously-generated machine for unconscious generation. I’m feeling more sure of its cultural value and legacy, and more assertive about stating it. We built this thing, and like all directed culture of the past, it has an agency and a desire, and if you pay attention to it you can see which way it wants to go, and what it wants to fight. We made that, all of us, in time, but we don’t have full control of it. Rather, like the grain of wood, it’s something to be worked with and shaped, but also thought about and conceptualised, both matter and metaphor.
There are Inception-like layers of nostalgia here: firstly, this web series of web pages made by Matt are a throwback to an earlier era, and secondly, the story being told goes all the way back to the birth of the ARPAnet.
A great little primer on the origins of the internet and the web, by Aleks.
We need the Internet of Things to be the next step in the series that began with the general purpose PC and continued with the Internet and general purpose protocols—systems that support personal autonomy and choice. The coming Internet of Things envisions computing devices that will intermediate every aspect of our lives. I strongly believe that this will only provide the envisioned benefits or even be tolerable if we build an Internet of Things rather than a CompuServe of Things.
Any sufficiently advanced hacking is indistinguishable from a haunting. In the same way that many Internet of Things objects are referred to as ‘enchanting’ or ‘magical,’ with an intervention, they can very quickly become haunted.
A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:
So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.
Unless we screw it up.
And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.
But if that sounds too upbeat for you…
Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.
We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.
And then there’s this gem:
It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.
Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.
A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.
Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.
But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.
The first in a series of articles about the architecture of the internet and its security issues, this is a great history lesson of how our network came to be.
What began as an online community for a few dozen researchers now is accessible to an estimated 3 billion people. That’s roughly the population of the entire planet in the early 1960s, when talk began of building a revolutionary new computer network.
A profile of a legend.
The most ambitious project from Archive Team yet: backing up the Internet Archive.
We can do this, people! Moore’s Law and all that.
Brewster Kahle’s short presentation at NetGain.
A profile of the wonderful Internet Archive.
No one believes any longer, if anyone ever did, that “if it’s on the Web it must be true,” but a lot of people do believe that if it’s on the Web it will stay on the Web. Chances are, though, that it actually won’t.
Brewster Kahle is my hero.
Kahle is a digital utopian attempting to stave off a digital dystopia. He views the Web as a giant library, and doesn’t think it ought to belong to a corporation, or that anyone should have to go through a portal owned by a corporation in order to read it. “We are building a library that is us,” he says, “and it is ours.”
I have to admit, my initial reaction to the idea of providing free access to some websites for people in developing countries was “well, it’s better than no access at all, right?” …but the more I think about it, the more I realise how short-sighted that is. The power of the internet stems from being a stupid network and anything that compromises that—even with the best of intentions—is an attack on its fundamental principles.
On the surface, it sounds great for carriers to exempt popular apps from data charges. But it’s anti-competitive, patronizing, and counter-productive.
There’s more than a whiff of Indie Web thinking in this sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto from Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger.
The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It’s quite lawn-off-getty …but I also happen to agree with pretty much all of it.
Although it’s kind of weird that it’s published on somebody else’s website.
This a great step-by-step walkthrough from Rey on setting up a remote version of Internet Explorer for testing on Mac.
internet.org might more accurately be called very-small-piece-of-internet.org
One more reason why you should never sniff user-agent strings: Internet Explorer is going to lie some more. Can’t really blame them though—if developers didn’t insist on making spurious conclusions based on information in the user-agent string, then browsers wouldn’t have to lie.
Oh, and Internet Explorer is going to parse -webkit prefixed styles. Again, if developers hadn’t abused vendor prefixes, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
An early look at the just-in-time interactions that Scott has been working on:
Nearby works like this. An enabled object broadcasts a short description of itself and a URL to devices nearby listening. Those URLs are grabbed and listed by the app, and tapping on one brings you to the object’s webpage, where you can interact with it—say, tell it to perform a task.
The Internet forgets every single day.
I’m with Jason.
I encourage you all to take a moment and consider the importance of preserving your online creations for yourself, your family, and for future generations.
For your consideration.
If enough people want a print run of this lovely Future Friendly T-shirt, then they’ll make a new batch.
The profits go to the Internet Archive.
A look at the architectural history of the network hubs of New York: 32 Avenue of the Americas and 60 Hudson Street. Directed by Davina Pardo and written by her husband Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet.
These buildings were always used as network hubs. It’s just that the old networks were used to house the infrastructure of telephone networks (these were the long line buildings).
In a way, the big server hotel of New York—111 Eight Avenue—was also always used to route packets …it’s just that the packets used to be physical.
The Aaron Swartz film is available on the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license.
Did you see Keren at dConstruct 2012? Well, here she is at this year’s TED conference delivering a barnstorming talk on hacker culture.
I like Matt’s observation here that the simple combination of a barebones data format like HTML delivered over HTTP is a good-enough low-level API for joining up all kinds of internet-connected things.
In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.
One implication is that successful products are not necessarily those with seamless, beautiful, tightly-controlled “experiences”, but rather the ones that are capable of talking to each other.
Small things, loosely joined.
A short video featuring Jason Scott and Brewster Kahle. The accompanying text has a shout-out to the line-mode browser hack event at CERN.
This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!
A great analysis of how centralised hubs are the easiest attack vector for bad actors like the NSA and GCHQ:
How did we get such industry concentration? Why is a network famously based on distributed processing, routing, and peer connections characterized now by a few choke points that the NSA can skim at its leisure?
This is a great explanatory piece from James Bridle in conjunction with Mozilla’s Webmaker. It’s intended for a younger audience, but its clear description of how web requests are resolved is pitch-perfect primer for anyone.
The web isn’t magic. It’s not some faraway place we just ‘connect’ to, but a vast and complex system of computers, connected by actual wires under the ground and the oceans. Every time you open a website, you’re visiting a place where that data is stored.
A timeline of technology.
Scott gives us an excellent State Of The Web address, looking at how the web can be central to the coming age of ubiquitous computing. He rightly skips through the imitation of native apps and gets down to the potential of just-in-time interactions.
Oh, dear. An otherwise perfectly well-reasoned article makes this claim:
But the internet is peculiarly adapted to deftly pricking pomposity. This is partly because nothing dies online, meaning your past indiscretions are never yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
Bollocks. Show me the data to back up this claim.
The insidious truism that “the internet never forgets” is extremely harmful. The true problem is the opposite: the internet forgets all the time.
Geocities, Pownce, Posterous, Vox, and thousands more sites are very much yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.
A beauty of a post by Jason giving you even more reasons to donate to Archive.org.
Seriously. Do it now. It would mean a lot to me.
Related: I’m going to be in San Francisco next week and by hook or by crook, I plan to visit the Internet Archive’s HQ.
A state of the connected union address, with soundbites from smart people in the world of ubicomp, internet of things, everyware, or whatever it is we’re calling it now.
We have lost an ally in the fight to maintain net neutrality. I wonder how Vint Cerf feels about his employer’s backtracking.
The specific issue here is with using a home computer as a server. It’s common for ISPs to ban this activity, but that doesn’t change the fact that it flies in the face of the fundamental nature of the internet as a dumb network.
I think the natural end point to owning your own data is serving your own data—something that Steven Pemberton talked about in his fateful talk.
We must fight these attempts to turn the internet into controlled system of producers and consumers.
The Internet, day one. A sad tale of data loss.
Preach it, Karen!
“Why would someone ever want to do that?” is the wrong question. It doesn’t matter why they want to do it. The fact is that people do. The right question, the one that we all should be asking, is “how can we make a better experience for them?”
A terrific lighting talk by Scott on the need to think bigger. The solution to long-term issues is rarely “start a company”—we need to think more about creating a shared infrastructure …just like the internet.
This is why the Internet Archive matters. It is now the public record of Obama’s broken promise to protect whistleblowers.
I feel very bad for the smart, passionate, talented people who worked their asses off on change.gov, only to see their ideals betrayed.
A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.
Google’s plan to bring internet connectivity to remote areas by using balloons wafting in the stratosphere.
Considering that Google seems to put as much time and effort into its April Fool’s jokes as it does into its real projects, you’d be forgiven for assuming this was a spoof.
A profile of Tom’s house.
It’s weird how normal this is.
A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.
When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.
A beautiful short film on the amazing work being done at the Internet Archive, produced on the occasion of their 10 petabyte celebration.
A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.
What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?
I remember a talk and discussion at SxSW a few years back about trying to improve the efficiency of trade networks by making them more web-like: there are ships full of empty cargo containers, simply because companies insist on using the container with their logo on it. I really, really like the idea of applying the principles of packet-switching to physical networks.
But here’s the hard part:
The technology is not a problem. We could do it all in 10 years. It’s the business models and the mental models in people’s minds.
This year’s TeleGeography map of the undersea network looks beautiful—inspired by old maps. I love the way that latency between countries is shown as inset constellations.
A good explanation of the litany of woes that comes from Internet Explorer 8 being the highest that users of Windows XP can upgrade to. It’s a particularly woeful situation if you are a web developer attempting to provide parity. But there is hope on the horizon:
2013 will see the culmination of all these issues; support for IE 8 will drop of rapidly, users of XP will find an increasingly broken web, the cost of building software in XP organisations will increase.
On Open Platforms, Wifi, Home Automation, and Kitty Litter | John Battelle’s Search BlogJohn Battelle’s Search Blog
This echoes Scott Jenson’s call for more open standards when it comes to networked devices. We’ll need it if we want “If This, Then That” for an internet of things.
Wondering whether that network-enabled device of yours is worthy of being considered part of the “internet of things?” Just answer these few short questions.
Man, I just love Scott Jenson.
Our brains have collectively gone startup-crazy, seeing the world through stock option colored glasses, assuming that if there is no money, there is clearly no value. This is madness. I’m so desperately worried that the internet will turn out to be a happy accident.
Turning his focus on “the internet of things” he makes the very good point that what we need isn’t one company or one proprietary service; we need an ecosystem of open standards that will enable companies to build services.
We all have to appreciate how we need a deep, open solution to solve this problem. If we don’t understand, demand even, that hardware devices need to be just as discoverable an open as web servers are today, we’ll never see the internet of things come to pass.
A lovely piece from Joanne on storytelling, identity and the internet.
This is quite an astounding piece of writing. Robert Lucky imagines the internet of things mashed up with online social networking …but this was published in 1999!
Those articles about the “Internet of Things” I linked to? Here they are in handy Readlist form.
A good recap of the recent online/offline/does-it-really-matter discussion …although it does lend a bit too much credence to the pronouncements of that king of trolls, Nicholas Carr.
This is just wonderful! It combines almost all of my recent obsessions into one unified post: website performance (particularly on mobile) and the locations of undersea cables. The interactive map is the icing on the cake.
What Erin has written here makes me want to be a better person.
There is a there there after all.
The backlash against the backlash against connectivity.
I could listen to Vint Cerf all day.
I think that it’s perfectly reasonable to have packets raining down from satellites, IP packets just literally raining down from satellites and being picked up by hundreds, if not millions, of receivers at the same time.
A nice timeline visualisation of recent history.
I love Tim Bray’s idea for naming the response code for censored content on the internet in honour of Ray Bradbury.
Chris Anderson interviews Mark Andreessen.
The Old Aesthetic.
This is a beautifully heartfelt post from Timoni:
Every day, I feel things because of the internet, and that’s amazing. Humans have been using abstracted communication for thousands of years, but it’s never been so instantaneous, never so capable of bringing folks of completely different backgrounds together in conversation. This is a huge step. Good job us.
A love letter to the Internet Archive.
A fascinating insight into the reaction of an internet-savvy child upon being exposed to “regular” television.
Explore the shape of the underwater world of internet backbones.
Remembering the camgirl community.
A superb piece of writing from Jeffrey, scorching the screen with righteous anger. THIS. IS. IMPORTANT!
SOPA approaches the piracy problem with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole internet in gasoline.