The web is vast, but not all of it is current. Many pages (like this blog during 2005) languish into disuse. There’s even a page that links to a web site, now long gone, that I created ten years ago. It’s unlikely that any web user today has never experienced the dreaded 404 error message that marks the place where a piece of history has since disappeared.
What fascinates me about the World Wide Web is how it has evolved from its roots as a place to publish papers, to the fastest way to spread information across the world.
Keep in mind that the Common Gateway Interface, the technology that enables dynamic web sites, has only been around since 1993 – three years later than the formation of the web itself. Since then, a variety of very cool ideas have contributed to making it easier to find information online.
RSS has been the foundation of much of the technology behind the live web. Originally developed by Netscape, RSS is a simple file that contains a list of links in a format that computers can understand. Today, all weblog systems and many other sites provide RSS (or a competing format, called Atom). Programs called aggregators read RSS feeds from multiple sites, and combine them into a single screen. planet 432 is an example of an aggregator – in this case, an aggregator focused on combining the posts of college students studying telecommunications technology.
One excellent resource for exploring the live web is Technorati, a search engine developed specifically for that purpose. Tecnorati combines RSS processing with some other so-called Web 2.0 technologies to provide a real-time glimpse of the conversation of the web. It’s a fascinating way to get a cross-section of opinions from people around the world about a significant world event. Often, thousands of blogs will weigh in within seconds of a story breaking.
The pulse of political discourse has shifted. It is no longer found on street corners or in a government building, but is instead carried out across multiple web sites 24 hours a day.