The Atlantic

The People Who Hated the Web Even Before Facebook

As the World Wide Web turns 30, a look back at its early skeptics
Source: Pat Benic / Reuters

Thirty years ago this week, the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at CERN, the European scientific-research center. Suffice it to say, the idea took off. The web made it easy for everyday people to create and link together pages on what was then a small network. The programming language was simple, and publishing was as painless as uploading something to a server with a few tags in it.

There was real and democratic and liberatory potential, and so it’s not at all surprising that people—not least Berners-Lee himself—are choosing to remember and celebrate this era. This was the time before social media and FAANG supremacy and platform capitalism, when the internet was not nearly as dependent on surveillance and advertising as it is now. Attention was more widely distributed. The web broke the broadcast and print media’s hold on the distribution of stories. HTML felt like a revolution.

Not to everyone, though. Just a few years after the internet’s creation, a vociferous set of critics—most notably in , a 1995 anthology published by City Lights Books—rose to challenge the ideas that underlay the technology, as previous groups had done with other, earlier technologies. This wasn’t the of Clifford Stoll’s essay arguing that the internet basically sucked. These were deeper criticisms about the kind of society that was building the internet, and how the

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