Zaid Ikhlas

@zaidikhlas

Revisiting The World Wide Web & Net Neutrality

December 3rd 2017

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The Beginning

On 6th August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee published the first web page ever. The primary objective of the website was to share progress about the World Wide Web with other researchers, to educate them to develop their own pages and to invite them to join this new web community.

The web grew rapidly.

Later in 1994, Tim Berners-Lee established the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that included various organizations like Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the European Commission, at MIT to develop and recommend standards to improve the qualities of the Web.

The W3C asserted (and continues to assert) that the standards and technologies of the World Wide Web be royalty-free so that anyone can adopt them without bearing any financial burden.

Photo by Clint Adair

One Web For All

One of W3C’s Design Principles, Web for All states,

“The social value of the Web is that it enables human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge. One of W3C’s primary goals is to make these benefits available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.”

This clearly indicates that everyone connected to the World Wide Web is equal. There is absolutely no discrimination at any level between the people of the Web regardless of their background or technological assets. This is the essential beauty of the Web.

Now let’s take a look at Net Neutrality. As defined on Wikipedia,

“Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.”

Comparing the two principles above, it is evident that the guiding principle of the World Wide Web is indeed, Net Neutrality.

The Importance Of Net Neutrality

We often tend to take things for granted and do not value them until we lose them. Net Neutrality is one of them. It enables everyone on the internet to do anything. There are no limitations of access or bandwidths to anyone connected to the Web.

We share, talk and laugh in a tier-less environment. We stream our favorite movies without worrying that our bandwidth would be throttled and we shop from any e-commerce store we like. This freedom of choice and humongous access is attributable to Net Neutrality — repealing it will set a dangerous and horrific precedent.

If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic — being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. — Elon Musk

Without Net Neutrality

Imagine you buy a bicycle to get to work, navigate around the city or just to improve your body fitness. Turns out, in order to set the bicycle’s saddle height above a certain limit, you will have to pay a monthly premium. Moreover, you will have to pay an additional fee to ride your bike outside a specific radius of your locality or to certain parts of the city, like the Downtown or to a Walmart!— Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Repealing Net Neutrality is as crazy as the bicycle scenario. Internet Service Providers(ISPs) will have the liberty of choking bandwidths for any web service they like so they can charge a premium to undo the choking. They might not even offer a premium package for services that are in competition with them. Big players in the tech world can team up with ISPs to cripple smaller players who are occupying a market share. The use-cases are endless.

The open Internet ,as we know it, would not be the same without Net Neutrality. Internet users will be divided into tiers giving the 1% another thing to brag about — “We get to stream Netflix faster than you little guys.”

Photo by James Pond

Fighting For Net Neutrality

Internet is a utility like water supply. You pay for the water but not for what you use it and it ought to stay that way. Eradicating Net Neutrality will only make the Internet experience more painful and expensive.

Tim Berners Lee intended to keep the World Wide Web royalty-free because he believed that only then, the true power of this technology can be explored and evolved. That belief and idea has proved itself with the advances in science, research, technology, media, economics, arts and what not due to the World Wide Web and it continues to do so in the Net Neutrality era.

The idea of repealing Net Neutrality, not just in USA, but in any country of the world should be questioned, challenged and blocked because it divides millions of people connected to each other.

The best course of action to fight for Net Neutrality is to educate ourselves and the people around us, as well as raise our voices against the authorities responsible for maintaining Net Neutrality in our ecosystem. There are a lot of organizations like Mozilla, GitHub, Reddit, FreePress, FightForTheFuture along with many more who are fighting for Net Neutrality. You can join them or get a hoodie, t-shirt, or sticker to raise awareness around you.

Let’s hope that Net Neutrality remains intact around the world so that we can experience the World Wide Web as indented by Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium — One Web For All.

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