Sometimes I have conflicting emotions about having invented the Internet. There are days when I look at it like, “Man, I can’t even believe this works and it’s become so popular.” But then there are even longer nights where I just want to do the world a favor and erase the whole darned thing.
I’m Tim Berners-Lee, by the way. You probably don’t recognize my name, which is wild — seeing as how I’m responsible for the most important breakthrough of all time. But yeah, twenty-five years ago, I invented the Internet. It’s true. Look it up. I’ve made it darned easy for you to do that.
And it was fun for a while — The Web. We called it The Web, back then. The World Wide Web. I was on magazine covers, my wife was impressed, the Queen of England knighted me, my university included me in its newsletter, I heard from a few old friends. It was neat for… let’s say, six months. Seven, tops. This was the Golden Age, before it all spiraled into an endless abyss of steaming garbage.
If you’ve used a computer anytime since, say, early 1990, you probably know what I mean. There’s all this stuff that I never could have have predicted — horrible comment sections and public shaming and unchecked monopolies that destroy industries and hacking and bullying and weird sexual nonsense and a steady stream of bad news and pointless memes and spying and new-fangled addictions and anonymous threats and the rewiring of our brains and a constant stream of advertising and scams and shams and blatant stealing and the spread of extremism and unnecessary lists and endless ranking and down-voting and diminished attention spans and the demise of newspapers and reputations ruined in an instant. Oh, and spoiler alerts to all of my favorite TV shows. I found out how Breaking Bad ended without even trying.
You know… maybe that’s an apt comparison, actually. The Internet started off as a milquetoast Walter White and has become a depraved Heisenberg. Hmm. I’m going to think about that.
So yeah, things aren’t that great.
I really didn’t anticipate any of this when I initiated Hypertext Transfer Protocol communication and let the Internet out of its box, forever. In retrospect, I should’ve just kept the idea to myself, or shared it with a few close friends, or made it password protected, so I had some say over who could join. But no. Nooooooooooo. I had to be a big shot. I had to compensate for not being very good at sports, or whatever.
Silly me, Tim Berners-Lee. That’s a little rhyme I say about myself, sometimes.
My therapist keeps telling me to stay positive, that I thought of something that democratized the flow of information, that I brought people together, that I’m responsible for jobs being created and the flourishing of ideas and leveling the world’s playing field so that everybody has an equal voice … and a billion other things that I’m forgetting right now. Marriages, or whatever. But I say to heck with it. To heck with it all!
Email is OK, I guess. Or, it’s quick, at least. I don’t know if I like it all that much, anymore. It just kind of just stresses me out. Like, you know when you reply to somebody’s message and then they reply to your reply, immediately? And you’re like, “Wait a minute, I just sent you an e-mail a few seconds ago! You’re not allowed to send me an e-mail and clog up my inbox again.”
I actually hate email.
I preferred it when my local post office was open on Saturdays.
And sure, sometimes I think I could’ve launched a couple of money-making platforms like Google, or Facebook, or Uber, or… something. I could’ve set my family up a bit better, monetarily. I mean, these guys — Zuckerberg or whoever — they were all just babies in 1989!
Maybe I don’t like the fact that nobody believes me, either. I was at this dinner party the other night and somebody innocently asked what I do for a living, and I quickly responded that I invented the Internet, and everybody just laughed. At me. For a long time. Finally, I screamed, “Use your precious INTERNET PHONES to look up TIM BERNERS-LEE on the INTERNET! Do it! NOW!” So they all did.
And then it got extremely quiet.
But I wasn’t through. I yelled, “Is THAT enough proof for you CHUCKLEHEADS? HUH?!” Then I turned the table over. Then I hollered, “I’m like Edison, Ford and Johannes effing Gutenberg, all wrapped into one!” Then I punched a hole in the wall. Then I stomped a saucer with my boot.
Hopefully nobody uploads a video of my freakout.
So that’s why I keep having conflicting emotions about having invented the Internet.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Silly me, Tim Berners-Lee.