internet-turns-20It’s easy to get into a rhythm building websites and forget that if the Web were a boy, he wouldn’t be allowed to buy alcohol. Twenty years ago this week, CERN released the World Wide Web into the public domain, a move that dramatically accelerated the proliferation of the Web.

Twenty years is barely a blip.

Art forms require hundreds of years to develop into maturity. Musicians from the Medieval and Renaissance periods worked for generations before creating the “Classical” and “Baroquian” styles that are recognized today. Years of work and rework. 

We’ve Made Progress.

Certainly, we’ve accomplished an impressive amount of growth in twenty years. The image below is from a site that was built in 1996. The site uses only HTML and images and included a fully data-driven vacation planner. CSS wouldn’t even be introduced until the end of 1996. This was groundbreaking work for the time.

Looking at that site, I am thankful for the growth of our craft. But we shouldn’t assume that today’s innovative work won’t look childish in twenty more years.

Today, the Web is in its “Medieval” period. The Mozart’s, Beethoven’s, and Chopin’s of our disciplines certainly haven’t been born yet. As builders of the ancient Web, we have a unique opportunity to contribute formative ideas that will shape hundreds of years of thinking.  Financial incentive is certainly a requirement, but money can never be the end goal.

We will be remembered by what we contribute.

You have Permission.

The difference between a rich German composer creating great music in 1793 and today’s online world is the price of admission. You can create meaningful projects without the permission of a distributor. There is no one left to say no.

Today, be inspired to make something. Not because it’s your job, but because the internet is 7206 days old and we have so much else to do. In twenty more years, we will look back and ask questions like:

  • Why did pages delay before loading?
  • Why there were “desktop” and “mobile” versions of websites?
  • Why was it so hard to buy something?
  • Why was it so hard to SELL something?
  • Why weren’t grocery stores online?
  • Why did you need an “expert” to put together a simple website?
  • Why was there so little interaction between the online and physical worlds?
  • Why were there 75 different ways to email/skype/chat/phone/text/snapchat/instagram/facebook/tweet to someone?
  • Why did you have convoluted passwords that no one could remember?

The people who answer these questions, in some cases, will get rich. In other cases, they won’t. Some of them will be remembered as champions of innovation. Most will remain relatively anonymous. But success tends to favor those who create.

Please Do Something!

Please don’t be satisfied with answering today’s immediate problems. There are so many meaningful, difficult questions that affect all of us. In twenty years, someone will ask you: “what did you do about those problems?”

In that moment, I want to have an answer.

“It wasn’t my job” won’t work.