Rant: The modern web is a workshop for reinventing the wheel

When it arrived, the World Wide Web was greeted with breathless awe and even the greatest sceptic must admit that the plaudits, paeans, prognostications (and even the platitudinous pontifications) that greeted its early progress were on the side of the angels. The web is our Gutenberg press and it changed the very ways we create, discover, disseminate and consume our stock of knowledge and information.

The web took us many, many steps forward but also a few back, however. One of these retrogressions - covered elsewhere on this site - is the fact that it has left gaping holes in our infrastructure with miscreants seeming now to have an unstoppable array of weapons that is growing daily. The latest example: Ukrainian hackers getting early access to financial press releases in order to make stock trades based on what was effectively insider information.

Another that suggests itself is the overwhelming collection of stuff that the web holds. The BBC, currently being asked by the UK government to stick to its public service remit is talking about, among other things, removing vast troves of recipes from its sites. Surely, you might argue, the sauce is already out of the bottle, but there you are. The amateur chef pondering what to do with his or her store cupboard will have one fewer option if the state gets its way. Petitions are already being signed but in fact the world won’t go hungry without the Beeb’s gastronomic insights; the gourmand’s options will be limited to pretty much any combination of ingredients ever discovered.

The fact is that in many ways we have reached ‘peak internet’, at the very least for commoditised information. We don’t need more news, stock market data, images, maps and online shops – in fact, we would be much better off with a smaller number of a higher quality.

Competition demands a Darwinian scrap but in the meantime those of us foraging online fail to see the wood for the trees. Even the might of the BBC, funded handsomely by the taxpayer, didn’t help it come up with better recipes.

Some might think this the thin end of the wedge and argue that any reduction in widely available information is anti-democratic and a threat to personal liberty. This is risible. In the ether we have a built a Library of Babel like the stupendous collection in the Jorge Luis Borges story, and it is unsustainable.


Read next:

Infantile and consumerised, IT is out of control

Whatever happened to security?

Is cloud computing the Emperor’s New Clothes?

I’m under surveillance – by my watch


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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