There was a time before the Web was mentioned in the same sentence
as the "business model", before the first crop of Internet multi-millioners,
before the .com domain names outnumbered the .edu names, when it was possible
to be wildly enthusiastic about the potential of the Internet, and especially
the World Wide Web, to transform individuals and nations, to dream about
the coming great internetworked society. Then the graduate students and
college kids, who tested the limits of HTML and HTTP and experimented with
online communities of interest, went off to start their own companies and
promptly forgot the language of idealism. Now public debate about the World
Wide Web is mainly driven by such topics as how to make money off the Web,
or negative characterizations such as the supposedly collapsing infrastructure
and security holes.
Perhaps the Internet is simply maturing. Perhaps the Web pioneers
have grown up and suddenly started to worry about mortgages. I have lost
much of the idealism of my younger days. However, nothing came to replace
it, and I am forcing myself to reimagine the future and to rekindle the
passion I have possessed earlier. While I have not been able to recapture
the feeling I often had in the early days of the Web -- that of witnessing
a revolution -- the following thoughts are still a good antidote to the
spiritual malaise of loosing sight of the future, the possibilities. Putting
these thoughts on the Web is part of the process of regaining idealism.
Despite the doomsayers predictions of imminent collapse of the 'Net, reports
of the death of the 'Net are greatly exaggerated. On the contrary,
the Web continues to adapt and evolve. The prevailing model of the Internet
-- Internet-as-space paradigm -- has reached its limits of usefulness and
needs to be replaced by a new model -- Internet-as-an-organism
-- in order for us to make further progress.
Though it is too early to call the Web a consciousness enhancing tool,
it can help us attain practical omniscience
and increase self-awareness.
There are those who think the Web should be another medium
for TV. The righteous should flee when they hear the word "push".