The button that would change the internet

Twenty-five years ago, on December 3, 1997, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, gave a talk at a W3C meeting in London. His talk was notable for his review of the early web, its early development, and his thoughts on its future.

An idea that Berners-Lee then raised in his speech – an idea that he had been mulling over for more than a year – was undeniably brilliant, he says the Slate.

He proposed that every browser be equipped with a button he called “Oh, Yeah”. The idea was that we would all start building trust through signed metadata as we moved around the web.

button

In a sense, our normal web browsing would generate a huge accumulation of crowd-sourced credibility data. “When we have that, we will be able to ask him not only information, but also why we should believe it", he said.

Imagine an “Oh, Yeah” button in your browser. You see a fantastic offer and ask your browser why you should believe what you see.

This could cause the server to provide some trust credentials. Your browser kept searching along with the server, looking for a way to convince you that the page is trustworthy for a purchase.

So maybe the research resulted in an endorsement from a magazine, which in turn has been endorsed by a friend of yours. Perhaps an endorsement from her was forthcoming of the seller, which in turn had an approval from your bank. Perhaps there was still no reason to believe what you read.

It should be mentioned that the “Oh, Yeah” button was not really about verifying information or finding the “truth”. Berners-Lee did not claim that certainty would come from ranking the websites with the most accurate information from the web. Rather, the “Oh, Yeah” button would suggest a more paradigmatic truth — that is, a reasonable approximation of whether something you read on the web is generally within the realm of most people's credibility.

"Oh, Yeah" probably represented an early warning that we should all be much more skeptical of cyberspace in the future. It was also an admission that Mr , in the future, will probably be used to trick us. Politicians, salesmen, criminals, thugs and liars abound and we need an easy way to deal with them in our daily reading of information.

If it did, perhaps we could prevent much of the evil that plagues the web and social media today. Think: categories for “”, εκστρατείες and phishing, could have been addressed.

However, we never saw the “Oh, Yeah” button in the prosour browser. Too many factors conspired against him.

The reasons

As the web became increasingly commercialized, the idea that a simple click of a button could reveal the truth about any product's advertised claims posed an almost existential threat to the web's usefulness as a sales vehicle.

The “Oh, Yeah” button may also have resulted in increased tension and arguments as the web evolved with social media. Imagine the fury that would be ignited if we let a crazy uncle press “Oh, Yeah” on the latest conspiracy circulating on Facebook.

Berners-Lee, in 1997, was overly optimistic about the possibility of accumulating and distributing a shared reality. Today we trust social media algorithms to lead us into worlds where our prejudices and beliefs do not require skepticism.

We finally replaced the “Oh, Yeah” button with the “Like” button. And that was a huge mistake.

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internet, Tim Berners-Lee

Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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