Existential Crisis of the Web

“If it isn’t on the Web, it doesn’t exist.” – Tim Berners-Lee

I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee actually believes in that statement, or if he just likes the way it sounds.

If anything, I’d say that the reverse of that statement is closer to the truth. The Web is able to elaborate, update, and put a new spin on things we already know, but at its core our favorite Web sites are simply online versions of what exists in our physical realm.

Social networking sites like Facebook are a replacement for contact books and phone calls. YouTube is TV and home movies on the Web. Amazon is basically just a shopping mall. I hate to break it to you, Tim, but those all existed before the Web.

Also, just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean it actually exists. Taking a trip out to Argleton will prove that.

To give more credit to Berners-Lee, I admit that the statement can be interpreted many ways. First, it seems like he’s saying the Web can do anything. This part I do not agree with. To me, the Web can substitute, show, and simulate just about anything, but all the pictures, video, and blogs about Paris won’t be the same as going there.

A second, more forgiving way to read this is that everything that exists has a Web counterpart. This interpretation seems more logical, since a Google search pulls up millions of results for obscure topics. But what about the things that Google can’t find? According to Berners-Lee, I guess they might as well not exist.


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