In case you haven't heard, today is the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Google even dedicated a Doodle to the occasion and #Web30 is trending on Twitter.
I'm 31 and I actually remember the first time my dad showed me how to sign onto the internet. I was probably 9 or 10 years old. A few clicks of the buttons. A very loud and weird sounding electronic noise. A welcome screen and home page. I'm pretty sure it was Excite.com. I was in awe. My mother and I stood behind his computer chair smiling.
I didn't really understand what the internet was (or the impact it would have on my life), but I knew it was a big deal. The plastic, metal and glass box that allowed me to create beautiful artworks in Microsoft Paint and save class projects on that small floppy disk suddenly had the power to unleash infinite information. You could go....anywhere. It seemed magical.
It took some time, but eventually my parents let ME get on the internet. This was well before predators were mainstream and porn could be clicked on accidentally while checking the weather. There were no parental controls but there were a few rules: I had to stay on the site I asked to go on. I could not buy anything. I had an hour because someone might try to call and would get a busy signal.
I spent most of my early Internet days on Nickelodeon.com, Disney.com and the infinite surplus of games on Shockwave.com. I would sit at my mother's computer and spend that blissful hour lost in make believe worlds until I had to relinquish the phone line.
I eventually graduated to my first e-mail address. It was a Hotmail account. Oh, the excitement when I got my first e-mail! A Hotmail.com welcome message! Checking e-mail was a BIG DEAL. Then I was introduced to the social staple of my childhood: AOL Instant Messenger. HOLY CRAP. That was our Facebook. From passive aggressive away messages to alerts when our crushes signed on. I still get a flutter in my heart whenever I hear a "moo" sound. My parents attempted to restrict my instant messaging because they feared it was negatively impacting my life. They made me uninstall AIM and delete my screen names. But screen names lived forever and they didn't know about a handy hack called AIM Express....
The Web really unleashed a sense of power and childlike wonder. I never knew I would depend on it as heavily as I do now. I never thought I would go from playing Lenny Loosejocks on Shockwave to Googling the name of an actor in a movie I saw three years ago to win an argument with a friend...on my phone. I never thought I would be a part of a social network (that is probably storing all my personal information) for over a decade and that social network would be the primary way I kept in touch with loved ones and friends. I never thought I would reach a point in my life when an e-mail was no longer exciting but rather, stress inducing. I never thought I would learn how to code a webpage (and enjoy it).
I never thought I would go from spending 1 hour on the Internet to about 13 -14 hours a day. Wow.
I'm grateful though. This anniversary puts things in perspective. I'm thankful all the Web has to offer and the opportunities it has granted me, the connections it has helped me foster (pun intended) and the memories of simpler times I can cherish with a nostalgic smile.
Happy Anniversary, World Wide Web. May you continue to improve, be accessible and change lives for the better. #Web30