25 Years of the World Wide Web

I read today that the first web page was created 25 years ago today.

That reminded of how I first heard of the web in 1993 or 1994, and wasn’t much interested in it. It sounded like a bulletin board or something.

But one of my computing friends kept going on about it, and trying to explain all the things it could do. But I still wasn’t interested.

And then one day he said that I could publish my ideas on it. And I could even embed Java applets in web pages. And with that I finally got interested.

I got interested because for about 20 years I’d been kicking around an idea that I’d started calling Idle Theory. And I wanted to publish something about it. But I didn’t think any publisher would be interested in it. I couldn’t see how any publisher could ever possibly be interested in it. And I was beginning to think I’d never be able to publish it.

But now, all of a sudden, I could see a strange new way of publishing it. It didn’t matter to me whether I got paid. All I wanted was to be able to put the idea out into the world. And pretty soon I was creating web pages for a book that rapidly became a collection of webpages, linked together in no particular order. And in 1998-99 I started publishing them online here.

And over the next 10 years I added more pages. And Idle Theory built up a tiny following. It even got 3 pages in a book. But I don’t think it ever got more than about 10 hits a day. Or maybe it was 10 hits a week.

I’m amazed it’s still available online. And still getting hits. For the past 6 years or so I’ve not been able to edit it, but recently I discovered I still could. And so I’m planning on adding some more pages. If anything is, Idle Theory is my life work. I’ve been fooling around with it for over 40 years now. And it still seems as powerful an idea as it ever did. And I’m glad I found a way to publish it.

These days I’m much better known for this blog. And on a good day that gets 1000+ hits a day.

And I use the web to get news, and weather forecasts, and satellite images. And I use it to buy stuff and for online banking. And I use it to listen to music, or play online golf or snooker, or just read. The web is an astounding thing. And these days I don’t know what I would do without it.

And yet I never saw it coming.

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About Frank Davis

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14 Responses to 25 Years of the World Wide Web

  1. Roobeedoo2 says:

    I know what you mean, Frank. Last year a friend kindly sent me a revision to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…

    Wrote about the WWW birthday yesterday :D

    https://roobeedoo2.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/wibbly-wobbly-tie-me-why-me/

  2. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Now with broadband I’ve actually found a real use for it other than fighting smoking bans like watching tv or YouTube movies in fact I’ve been on YouTube more than tv. I can be watching a show and hear Facebook ding for a call to action if we are needed somewhere in the fight!

    Yes indeed when it first came out all I found any use for was surfing porn! Other than that what did a tedneck need it for everything else I needed was in the backyard.

  3. Marvin says:

    Your Idle theory is very interesting and I must say I agree with 99% of it, however I have two criticisms to make of it…

    1 – Charley Marx beat you to it 150 years ago, with his theory of labour value, ie. the value of a commodity (NOT ITS PRICE!!!) is determined by the amount of labour time embodied within it (man/woman hours taken to make it). Machines and mass-production techniques reduce its “value” to almost nothing (it could be given away!!), but under capitalism NOT its selling price.

    2 – Theory is all well and good, but it has to be applied to make a difference. If it was the theoretical basis for a political party and therefore action it would have practical value. However if it is not, then again in Marxs’ words…..The Philosophers (and Frank Davies) have interpreted the world, the point is however to change it.

    This piece from 1998 says to me you were not “a little bit left wing” but quite a lot left wing. Perhaps you had to include the “little bit” so as not to alienate your american readership, we all know how much they love “socialism” ;)

    http://www.idlex.freeserve.co.uk/idle/conclusion2.html

    • waltc says:

      Something in the core of this 1998 essay reminds me of Nathanael West’s brilliant 30’s novella, “Miss Lonelyhearts” (If you never read it, I highly recommend it) But yes, it’s a nostalgic tho not entirely off base 30s Leftism– capitalism defined as the masses chasing the unnecessary to the profit of the few. Yet I also wonder –not counter-theorizing, just wondering– if work itself isn’t somehow necessary. Not sweat-shop/ chain-gang work but work of some sort. (Freud said the two things mankind needs are love and work.) Could it be that we invent things to think we want (carpets, BMWs) as a rationalization or justification for our implicit need to work? Work providing Purpose, and the vaunted Self-esteem. People on welfare are idle, but for the most part not content. Retirees often fall into depression unless they’re avid hobbyists. IOW, I might agree that we sincerely believe we want idleness and may work hard to achieve it, but..

      • Frank Davis says:

        Retirees often fall into depression unless they’re avid hobbyists.

        I suppose that I’m retired. But I don’t get depressed. Perhaps that’s because, with my orbital simulation models, I’m an avid hobbyist?

        And I can’t take Freud in the least bit seriously.

    • Frank Davis says:

      1) Charley Marx beat you to it 150 years ago, with his theory of labour value, ie. the value of a commodity (NOT ITS PRICE!!!) is determined by the amount of labour time embodied within it (man/woman hours taken to make it).

      Charley wasn’t the originator of the labour theory of value – it had been around for a good while since other classical economists like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc. And anyway, Idle Theory doesn’t use the labour theory of value.

      In Idle Theory, the hours of labour that go into making something are called its Cost, and this is just one contributor to its Price (also measured in hours). The other contributor to price is the Value of the product, which is the amount of work that it saves.e.g. it takes some amount of work to make a can-opener (Cost), but in use the can-opener saves time opening cans (Value). If it’s a genuinely useful tool, Value-in-use exceeds Cost-of-production. If not, it’s a luxury and a waste of time. The Price floats somewhere between Cost and Value. In monopoly conditions, Price approaches Value. In conditions of competition, Price approaches Cost.

      This is a completely different account of Cost and Value and Price from Charley’s classical view. It’s also a different account from the neo-classical economic view which placed a subjective value on products (“I like this, and I don’t like that”)

      2) The Philosophers (and Frank Davies) have interpreted the world, the point is however to change it.

      There can be no possibility whatsoever in changing the world if the world is not well understood. e.g. you can’t build spaceships if you don’t understand the laws of motion and gravity. Neither Charley nor any of the other classical and neo-classical economic philosophers understood the nature of the economy. And this lack of understanding is the central problem of our age.

      If “being left wing” means being a Marxist, then I can’t be either, because the Idle Theory of cost, value, and price that I’ve just set out has no connection whatsoever with Marx or with any form of socialism.

      P.S. Further reading on this blog, Profit isn’t a dirty word, Absolute Value.

  4. sackersonwp says:

    Excellent! It’s about efficiency. People say “you do what you have to,” but you point out that there’s so much we don’t have to do. Liberating.

    • Some French bloke says:

      What’s liberating to some (few ?) people is frightening to others (most ?) – namely, those for whom idleness would mean having to get to grips with taedium vitae (“the feeling that life is boring and troubling”).

  5. waltc says:

    OT. You can apparently smoke crack in NYC parks, but not cigarettes

    http://nypost.com/2016/08/05/cops-finally-take-on-washington-square-park-crackheads/

  6. jameshigham says:

    Saw that, was going to post but will just link here.

  7. Actually I was pondering your Idle Theory the other day. Someone explained to me the currentish theory that early man (however you want to define that) hunted by ‘running down’ his prey, ie chasing it over the savannah of Africa or what-would-become-Brixton . Then suddenly someone had the bright idea that instead of chasing the animal to the point of collapse and then braining it with a handy rock, it would be a much better idea to chuck that rock, or pointy stick, at the poor unfortunate sabre tooth and keeping on chucking until it expired.
    That would seem to me to tie in with IT nicely. Suddenly man was not having to run a half marathon a day to get meat. One well aimed rock could save hours of energy expenditure and effort and leave man with time to whittle something pornographic yet tasteful out of sabre tooth bunny bones.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I always like Bucky Fuller. But never completely agreed with him.

      Buckminster Fuller: We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.

      But it is surely the primary fact of life that all living things have to “earn their living”, and do something in order to survive – even if that something entails going down to the kitchen to eat another one of Mum’s home-baked cakes? It can be reduced to a minimum, but never to zero. Idleness can never reach 100%. And all the technological breakthroughs from the first stone tools onwards have only each made fractional reductions in necessary human work.

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