Entangled in the Web

While flipping through the old pages of a book on Speech and Communication, my eyes caught
the following lines of Marshall McLuhan: Someday the whole world would be a global village. He
was simply referring to the idealized concept of a diverse community where people of different races
and cultures would commune together (New York of today, for example). Little did McLuhan know
that his words will one day become literal.
That day is today! After the short dial-up rattleof my ISP, I loaded Netscape Navigator into
my Windows platform. Within seconds, I pulled out my customized newspaper filled with every story
that fits my profile in sources raging from local, regional, national to countless countries around the
globe; it took me much more time to make the coffee! Desi437 has sent you an instant message;
would you like to accept it? Oh! Thats my friend Nisha, from India. Flipping back and forth
between the browser and the Instant Messenger, I managed to pull out the stats I needed on Ireland,
for my History class; a native web site helped greatly. What Jules Verne struggled to do in 80 days, I
more or less, completed in about eight minutes. Thanks to one of the greatest discoveries of the
Before an individual can understand the different problems that the World Wide Web faces, it is
necessary to understand what it is exactly and how it is structured. The World Wide Web (www) or
simply web, as it is passionately called among users, can simply be defined as: a large area database
with a universe of information, providing access to users around the world. Visualize a large file
cabinet; it is in fact so large that almost everyone in the world could easily access it. A user can put in
(upload) information as well as retrieve (download) it. That is what the web is, today. Simply put, the
world wide web is a critical component of the Internet, joining millions of users for information
The web is structured in a concept of universal leadership; if there is information
available, any authorized individual could be allowed to access it, from anywhere in the world. The
web, more or less, runs on a client-server model. Client is the users terminal and the Server is the
terminal (mainframe) that the user is connected to. Not only does a connection exist between the
client and the server, the connections are cross-wired in such a way that clients are connected to each
other and servers are connected to each other. No particular unit is the key focus of the whole
system. If there is a technical difficulty affecting any server in the system, it does not affect the
system as a whole. Since there is no one main system, no one can pinpoint a geographical location, for
the web. No matter where the user is located, a POT line can connect him or her to the global
The Web has changed dramatically since its humble beginnings. In 1989, CERN (Conseil
Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire), a group of scientists in complex Physics, Engineering and
Information Handling fields, realized the need for a network for fast access of information. Since they
had the financial resources for setting up such a system, within months, a network was established;
using simple browsers, scientists were allowed access into the mainframe and its vast contents.They
were also given the option of posting their own studies and adding to the material of the database. In
the early years, hypertext was a crucial component. The browsers were completely text-based and
hypertext (a text link) allowed the users to jump from one document to another. Tim Berners Lee of
CERN incorporated the ideas of Ted Nelson (inventor of hyperlink) and soon generated the idea of
The World Wide Web. As soon as it was opened to the public at the dawn of this decade, the web
received much acceptance and recognition and the response was tremendous. Since then, the growth
rate of the online community and its resources were rapid and today, it has become almost an
inevitable part of our daily lifestyles. (World Wide Web People).
Today, hundreds of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are opening the gateway of the Internet for
millions of users around the globe. Connections are generally transmitted over POTS (Plain Old
Telephone Services) and connected to computers using modems. Internet does not simply consist of
the world wide web. There are many other components such as BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), FTP
(File Transfer Protocol), E-Mail (Electronic Mail), Information Services, Newsgroups and many more.
Today, with little or no cost, a user can setup his or her own web site. A domain address is assigned
according to the content of the site and once the files are uploaded, users around the world can access
the information from their terminals.
Our age is appropriately named the Information Age! Within the past decade, the computer
systems in our living rooms have been transformed from a simple commodity to an inevitable part of
American lifestyle. Our minds are constantly bombarded with Internet advertisements of all sorts from
all different arrays of media, around us. Internet is no more a simple reference library for the student
and an intrigue for the hobbyist; it is more of a culture – a Cyberculture. People around the world have
joined together, crossing the barriers of age, sex and color and upheld a mass-medium of information
and experience. Sounds good? But is the web a ticking time bomb that will soon explode into utmost
confusion and alienation? The chances are very likely!
How can a system such as the world wide web, that brings people together from around the
globe, leads to chaos and alienation? Let me explain . . .Humans have a restricted capacity for
absorbing information. Each and every moment, an individual is constantly bombarded with a
ceaseless flow of sensory stimuli. It is impossible to respond to all the stimuli, so one is forced to
restrict his or her attention to a few. Whatever we choose to see (comprehend) is classified as Signal
and whatever we choose to emit is classified as Noise (Psychology 4). Apply this concept to the web.
First and foremost, understand that memory and storage is not a significant factor in the computer
world, anymore. Scientists have learned to compress loads of information into very little space. Speed
is not a factor, either. With the advent of cable-modems and other technologies, downloading and
uploading is simply, a breeze. With opportunities like that, web is constantly enlarging in size with tons
of information from around the globe. Since there is such a constant increase in content, there will also
be a constant increase in noise. Pinpointing the information that the user really needs will be the hard
task; eventually it will become impossible. The signs that I have mentioned are very much alive,
today. Try searching for a specific topic on any of the leading search engines on the Internet. It is
very likely that the search engine will spit out over tens of thousands of hits, upon request; the
information that is relevant to the search will be an elite few. According to this rate of the increase, it
is possible that soon you will be given with millions of hits with no relevance to your liking. If not
Since the quantity of the web is increasing at a fast pace, finding quality on the web can be
equated to searching for a pin in a haystack – almost impossible! The clear database structure that the
web once upheld is not present in the scenario today. Users are lost in a soup of obscene, irrelevant
junk with a relatively small percent of valuable information, all adorned with a wide array of colorful
advertisements on every corner. One might argue: everyone doesnt want the same content; what if
the user is actually searching for the smut? Realize that I am not standing behind a podium of ethics,
rather I am speaking from the perspective of the librarian. It is true that the information that is posted
is relevant for its users but the organization of the matter is where we have completely failed! A
seventh grade student, who was researching for his Social Studies class, typed the following keyword
into one of the nets leading search engines: Asians. Soon, the screen was flooded with sites
containing the same keyword but most of them were linked to various porn sites. There are web sites
in the thousands, specializing in occult fetishes of every kind, that one can imagine and then, some
more. Even if those sites are there legally, there should be a better form of organization that prevents
users from entering unintended web sites.
As I have mentioned above, the question of ethics, or ones definition of what is right and wrong
is a serious issue concerning the world wide web. Pornography is not the only controversial issue of
the net. There are millions of sites propagating various religious dogma, ethical issues such as abortion,
politics, and other touchy material. For example, Ron Harris caused a major eruption in the scene
recently, when he introduced his Human Egg-Auction-Site under ronsangels.com. Fertility experts,
religious leaders etc. have been enraged by Mr. Harris claims and have accused him of every verdict
raging from running a soft-core E-Bay to the Hitlerian crime of Eugenics. The site features the eggs
of three models (there were eight initially but five dropped out due to negative publicity) who are
auctioning off their eggs to Internet users. The site claims that beauty is a key component for survival
and claims that society will be made better by creating a utopia that has its focus on beauty. I
personally despise the site and if I were a parent, would not want my child to view such content. Such
material, being open to the world, with no discretion, being just a click away is a scary thought.
I have been raised in a confined setting, with strict moral, religious and family values. I hold them
very dearly and hope to share it with a family of my own, someday. I would, with all the power that is
bestowed upon me, do my best in keeping those values unadulterated. For every other media, there
are strict rules for the contents it relays. Every show on network television has been assigned a rating
and content that fail to meet the set standards are not televised. Even though, there are certain
guidelines for Internet content, enforcing it has been a disaster. There are millions of sites on the net
that are clearly below the standards of the rules and regulations. They are easily accessible to all kinds
of users. This makes the Internet a dangerous media. Children and sensitive users are not protected
and they can easily run into harmful content by cruising carelessly.
Lets analyze the issue from a business perspective. The net has provided a world wide market
for businesses around the globe. From Metrocards to paper towels to computers and cars, net has
given the opportunity for the customers to shop till they drop from the safety and comfort of their
own homes. But, what does the future hold for these online businesses? Sites like E-Bay, sale.com
etc. sell products of all kind. Since they face the same customers, how will these businesses flourish
when more stores start conducting their businesses online? As the number of stores increases, the
number of consumers per store decreases. Eventually, one store will be a burden for the other,
preventing either one from finding a profitable sale. Tax is yet another issue. What taxes can or
should be placed on these online stores. A hypothetical situation . . .A store running in the United
States imports its products from England. The packaging is done in Australia and the warehouses are
located throughout Asia. What kind of restrictions should such a business be subject to? Who gets to
enforce taxes? What kind of tax can be enforced?
In my research and reasoning, the main business that is flourishing from online businesses
are network television stations. Online sites use offline media, especially network television
advertisement slots to propagate their various sites. Marvin Goldsmith of ABC reported that they
collected about $200 Million in Net related ads, this year (Eisenberg). Thousands of sites out there are
desperately trying to attract attention to their sites in hopes of increasing their profits. Network
Television stations such as ABC, who are constantly losing audiences can still gather an audience of
around 18 million people; no web site can dare compare to such a response. These outrageous dot
com commercials are diminishing in impact, day by day.
As portrayed in the previous pages, the World Wide Web of today, faces several serious issues.
The amounts of content, type of content, business downfalls, are just a few prominent ones. The global
nature of the Web has brought forth serious problems in regulation. Since no particular area has the
key focus, there is no order or control in the flow of information. We ought to harness this productive
technology before it falls apart into total chaos and ruin.
In my opinion, the global nature has to be more restrained, in order to tackle the issue of control.
First of all, there should be a written constitution and bylaws for the World Wide Web. Every country
that is a member of the coalition should enforce these written laws within their countries. For this idea
to be practical, the user should only be allowed to publish a web site in a native server; for example, an
American user should only be entitled to publish a site in a server located within the US. A British user
is allowed and only allowed publishing in British servers. Then, those servers should be regulated
independently. By enforcing such check posts, the flow of information can easily be controlled.
The same should be done for conducting business operations. An online store should only be
allowed to conduct business nationally. If one chooses to conduct a business internationally, the
officials of that country should be contacted, and appropriate taxes should be levied. Internet has to be
divided geographically and controlled accordingly. There ought to be clear distinctions between
national boundaries. This will leave the business routines intact.
The rating scale that the American television media adorns is a good concept to carry over to the
web scenario. Every page should carry a designated rating according to its contents and an advisory
board should be in charge to assign them. Before a HTML document is published, it should be sent to
the advisory board for review and then it can be passed on for publishing.
I am not supporting the concept of Net Censorship but rather a Net Classification. I strongly
believe that all citizens have the right in freely expressing themselves. Regardless, one ought to be
careful in respecting all parties and be careful not to insult others. If every site carries a rating, then
the user can choose for himself/herself if to visit a particular site, or not.
Another alternative for the organizing web content is by using a BBS format. BBS or Bulletin
Boards are Internet locations that tackle a specific topic. The author states a question or an issue and
people who wish to make their contributions toward the database, respond accordingly. This system
allows the creation of homogeneous groups and a stronger and in-depth conversation can be upheld.
Putting thoughts into words necessarily does not aid in communication. The idea that the user is trying
to convey has to be well organized for a successful transmission to take place. Like-minded individuals
focused on a common interest allows the production of a heartier discussion to take place. This will
clearly eliminate isolation and alienation on the web and make content more productive.
Organization of data provides information. The web is jam-packed with valuable facts and
statistics but very little information can be derived from them. A selective isolated setting allows for a
connection that the cold, vast world of the web cannot. Many Internet users uphold the idea of
viewing the Internet or more specifically the web, as a frontier. The dictionary defines frontier as a
realm of limitless possibilities and few social controls. One might argue that it liberates the user from
the social constrains of his or her society because, no one person, owns the web. This is false! Every
user owns the Internet! If the resource cannot be shared, it is not useful and a useless technology
cannot liberate. Law, order and most important, organization are key components for the successful
Bibliography:
World Wide Web People. 26 October 1999.
Eisenberg, Daniel. The Net Loves Old Media. Time. November 1, 1999.
Wertheimer, Bjrkman, Lundberg and David Magnusson. Psychology – A Brief Introduction. Glenview: Scott,
Foresman and Company, 1968.

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