Back to the Future

Now, 10 years old, the world wide web sheds the gold-rush mentality and returns to its idealistic roots

| January / February 2003

When the World Wide Web exploded on the scene in 1993, it was heralded as a new communications utopia. It was, early champions raved, the great information equalizer, leveling the playing field between powerful corporate interests and upstart grassroots movements. Everyone?s ideas would flow effortlessly around the world, spreading values of freedom, diversity, and democracy.

Unfortunately, such idealistic visions were quickly overshadowed by the gold-rush mentality of the dot-com revolution?less a global village than a gigantic shopping mall. Perhaps mercifully, that commercial bubble burst in 2000, and many dot-coms (though not, of course, eBay and the porn sites) were forced to shutter their doors.

While the last couple years have felt like cyberspace?s equivalent of the morning after, the Web is now bouncing back with a new focus that looks a lot like the original idealism that spurred its growth. We survey some of the new developments in the following articles.
?The Editors

3,000 B.C.
The history of computers begins about 5,000 years ago in China with the invention of the abacus.



1844
The first telegraph message, ?What hath God wrought,? is successfully sent via an iron wire stretching 37 miles between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

1858
The transatlantic cable of 1858 carries instantaneous communications across the ocean for the first time.