A World Wide Web Milestone

Twenty-five years ago this month, the world's first website went live to the public. The site, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, was a basic text page with hyperlinked words that connected to other pages.

Berners-Lee used the public launch to outline his plan for the service, which would come to dominate life in the 21st century. The Web has evolved into a massive information platform: there are more than one billion web sites, and about 40% of the world’s population—and over 80% of the United States’—has an Internet connection. The number of Internet users has increased tenfold from 1999 to 2013.

Learn all about this revolutionary invention with books like these from the Mercer County Library System:

  The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data by Michael P. Lynch
The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data by Michael P. Lynch
We used to say "seeing is believing"; now googling is believing. With 24/7 access to nearly all of the world's information at our fingertips, we no longer trek to the library or the encyclopedia shelf in search of answers. We just open our browsers, type in a few keywords and wait for the information to come to us. Indeed, the Internet has revolutionized the way we learn and know, as well as how we interact with each other. And yet this explosion of technological innovation has also produced a curious paradox: even as we know more, we seem to understand less. While a wealth of literature has been devoted to life with the Internet, the deep philosophical implications of this seismic shift have not been properly explored until now. Demonstrating that knowledge based on reason plays an essential role in society and that there is much more to "knowing" than just acquiring information, leading philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch shows how our digital way of life makes us overvalue some ways of processing information over others, and thus risks distorting what it means to be human.

With far-reaching implications, Lynch's argument charts a path from Plato's cave to Shannon's mathematical theory of information to Google Glass, illustrating that technology itself isn't the problem, nor is it the solution. Instead, it will be the way in which we adapt our minds to these new tools that will ultimately decide whether or not the "Internet of Things"—all those gadgets on our wrists, in our pockets and on our laps—will be a net gain for humanity. Along the way, Lynch uses a philosopher's lens to examine some of the most urgent issues facing digital life today, including how social media is revolutionizing the way we think about privacy; why a greater reliance on Wikipedia and Google doesn't necessarily make knowledge "more democratic"; and the perils of using "big data" alone to predict cultural trends. Promising to modernize our understanding of what it means to be human in the digital age, The Internet of Us builds on previous works by Nicholas Carr, James Gleick and Jaron Lanier to give us a necessary guide on how to navigate the philosophical quagmire that is the Information Age.

“A bracing challenge to Internet enthusiasts.”—Booklist

The Shallows: Is the Internet Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr
The Shallows: Is the Internet Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr
“[Carr] looks to neurological science to gauge the organic impact of computers, citing fascinating experiments that contrast the neural pathways built by reading books versus those forged by surfing the hypnotic Internet, where portals lead us on from one text, image, or video to another while we're being bombarded by messages, alerts, and feeds. This glimmering realm of interruption and distraction impedes the sort of comprehension and retention deep reading engenders, Carr explains. And not only are we reconfiguring our brains, we are also forging a new intellectual ethic, an arresting observation Carr expands on while discussing Google's gargantuan book digitization project. What are the consequences of new habits of mind that abandon sustained immersion and concentration for darting about, snagging bits of information? What is gained and what is lost? Carr's fresh, lucid, and engaging assessment of our infatuation with the Web is provocative and revelatory.”—Booklist

“Carr provides a deep, enlightening examination of how the Internet influences the brain and its neural pathways. Computers have altered the way we work; how we organize information, share news and stories, and communicate; and how we search for, read, and absorb information. Carr's analysis incorporates a wealth of neuroscience and other research, as well as philosophy, science, history, and cultural developments. He investigates how the media and tools we use (including libraries) shape the development of our thinking and considers how we relate to and think about our brains. Carr also examines the impact of online searching on memory and explores the overall impact that the tools and media we use have on memory formation. His fantastic investigation of the effect of the Internet on our neurological selves concludes with a very humanistic petition for balancing our human and computer interactions. VERDICT Neuroscience and technology buffs, librarians, and Internet users will find this truly compelling. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet by Edward Lucas
Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet by Edward Lucas
“We want computers to be easy to use, keep track of the details of our lives, and keep us connected. And even though with every click we are exposing more and more of our lives and identities, we don't want to be responsible for securing that information. Economics writer Lucas understands this and offers a guide to the vulnerabilities of which we are barely aware as we go about our lives in cyberspace. Lucas details the various schemes by criminals, pranksters, hacktivists, and government agencies to gain access to information on computers to steal identities, data, and records and to wreak havoc. Among the more infamous attacks are breaches of security at Target, Sony, and numerous banks and government agencies, and the efforts by Chinese and Russian governments to steal intellectual property and secrets of geopolitical competitors. Through case studies and vignettes, Lucas analyzes the threats to individuals, corporations, and governments. Regulations for improved security are hampered by paranoia following Edward Snowden's disclosures of how national security surveillance programs are being used to spy on citizens. An enlightening, highly accessible look at security threats on the Internet, with sound solutions for protection.”—Booklist

“Despite the title, there's nothing irrational about the fears that Economist editor Lucas evokes in this deeply disturbing look at how our increasing dependence on an online world has made us vulnerable to attacks from ‘spies, soldiers, hooligans, pranksters, criminals, or commercial rivals.’ Using language that's easily accessible for non-techies, Lucas traces the roots of the current crisis to the failures of those who designed the Internet to connect academic networks; they never foresaw its exponential expansion to every aspect of modern life, and they neglected to pay close attention to security issues. Even informed readers will benefit from Lucas's synthesis of chilling incidents—for example, the Gameover Zeus botnet attack that caused more than $100 million in financial losses after infecting more than 500,000 computers between September 2011 and May 2014—as he places them in context. Not content just to summarize the current ways that identity theft and invasions of privacy can tarnish the lives and reputations of ordinary people, Lucas describes how the shift of the Internet from a mode of human communication to ‘a network for machines to talk to other machines’ will create even more serious challenges. His grim warnings will serve as a wake-up call for citizens and their leaders alike.”—Publishers Weekly

“Useful for nonexperts wanting a larger picture of cyber-security.”—Library Journal

Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know it’s True? by Charles Seife
Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know it’s True? by Charles Seife
Digital information is a powerful tool that spreads unbelievably rapidly, infects all corners of society, and is all but impossible to control—even when that information is actually a lie. In Virtual Unreality, Charles Seife uses the skepticism, wit, and sharp facility for analysis that captivated readers in Proofiness and Zero to take us deep into the Internet information jungle and cut a path through the trickery, fakery, and cyber skullduggery that the online world enables.

Taking on everything from breaking news coverage and online dating to program trading and that eccentric and unreliable source that is Wikipedia, Seife arms his readers with actual tools—or weapons—for discerning truth from fiction online.

“Digital information, according to Seife in this informative book, influences our actions and alters public dialogue in very subtle and devious ways. Seife, a professor of journalism at New York University, defines virtual unreality as the state of ‘living in a world where the real and virtual are no longer completely disentangled,’ as data from the Web affect every one of us in a constant, persistent, and unfiltered manner. He discusses Web schemes that can damage reputations, such as the infamous ‘sockpuppetry’ strategy, using a false identity for deception and gathering information. Seife notes China's masterful use of sockpuppetry to gather information on rivals, and the New York City police force's efforts to create false identities on laptops to snare pedophiles and terrorists. Other issues covered are scam emails with bogus names asking for funds, photoshopped images of celebrities, and sinister Wall Street ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes. Intense and incisive, Seife's expose of potent tricks on the mesmerizing, overpowering Internet makes us very wary about anything that cannot be verified with our own eyes.”—Publishers Weekly

The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen
The Internet is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen
In The Internet Is Not the Answer, Andrew Keen, a twenty-year veteran of the tech industry, traces the technological and economic history of the internet from its founding in the 1960s through the rise of the big data companies to the increasing attempts to monetize almost every human activity, and investigates how the internet is reconfiguring our world—often at great cost. In this sharp, witty narrative, informed by the work of other writers, academics, and reporters, as well as his own wide-ranging research and interviews, Keen shows us the tech world, warts and all, and investigates what we can do to make sure the choices we make about the reconfiguring of our society do not lead to unpleasant unforeseen aftershocks.

“Sure to be condemned by some for its seemingly one-sided approach, the book nevertheless clearly stakes out a position in the ongoing debate over what the digital age has wrought.”—Booklist 

“A well-written, convincing critique of Silicon Valley, and a worthy read for anyone with an email account.”—Publishers Weekly

“Keen acknowledges that the modern Internet is not all bad, but insists it can do better. He argues for more oversight and laws, such as France's ‘anti-Amazon’ law that prohibits free shipping on discounted books. A well-written work, though topics sometimes appear disjointed. VERDICT A must-read for technophiles and business leaders, or those curious about technology's societal effects.”—Library Journal

From Gutenburg to Zuckerburg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet by John Naughton
From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet by John Naughton
“When the Gutenberg press was invented, around 1455, few people of the time would have predicted the profound disruptive effects it would have on culture, from undermining the authority of the Catholic Church to the democratization of learning and the rise of modern science. The Internet is a similarly disruptive technology, the results of which we cannot fully fathom or predict. Naughton…is nevertheless willing to take a stab at the unpredictable. The network now is the computer (or cloud) that has become a vital part of everyday life, with implications not only for privacy and security but also how we relate and interact with the world. Naughton warns of two possible outcomes of our networked futures envisioned by the English writers George Orwell and Aldus Huxley—one a prison of our fears under the constant, watchful eye of Big Brother; the other in which our own sense of self gets lost in a sea of our own self-indulgence. Or perhaps we already occupy a space somewhere between these dystopian and utopian nightmares.”—Booklist

“Naughton…offers a perceptive primer about the Information Age. Along the way, he provides a savvy historical overview of the information industry, from the printed page to the rapid evolution of the computer, to the WikiLeaks revelations. Naughton dissects the current debates surrounding copyright laws and intellectual property, distilling complex issues into accessible facts and revealing that our relationship with the Internet is indeed a work in progress. Avoiding an abundance of scare tactics found in many books of this type, Naughton offers a practical approach to the ever-evolving Internet and takes ‘the long view’ of coexistence without overplaying the fears of over-dependence, lack of security, and privacy.”—Publishers Weekly

“The nature of the Internet is a difficult, slippery thing to define, but Naughton…makes it his goal to help readers better understand it. He describes how the Internet's infrastructure has given it a knack for creative disruption and why that's important for its future. Naughton effectively dispels confusion about the web and writes brief, accessible histories of technologies we currently enjoy…. He ends with philosophical musings about the future of the Internet, underscoring issues such as privacy and security and how they may shape our use of the network. VERDICT: This is a solid overview of Internet technology for those who use it but who don't feel that they comprehend it. Experts might not find much new information here, but the author's observations and analysis will give any reader a better grasp of the web's big picture.”—Library Journal

-Lisa S.