Web standards are a collection of intangibles that we collectively agree to be true. They’re our stories. They’re our collective, consensus reality. They’re what web browsers agree to implement and what we agreed to use. The Web is agreement.
In the past you saw international and national standardization of very well-defined technologies. For example, if you were going to build nuts and bolts, what the threads look like, and you know, with the proper spacing and height and grip and so on. And so you know, this is not rocket science. It’s critically important to an engineer’s infrastructure to have standardization of these things, but it’s not as if we are trying to somehow codify the laws of physics.
People are amazed at the growth of the Web, but the growth of the Internet, that was actually what happened from zero. So the things that you guys have done from this have been the way that we have learned.
We’re at a thousand dollars per gigabyte, which is what current disk drives cost. The twenty terabytes that people estimate in ASCII that’s in the Library of Congress is just twenty million dollars. So that’s not very much money in terms of being able to store and retrieve [crosstalk] the Library of Congress.
One of the ways that industrial revolutions are interesting to think about is that they look differently depending on how and where you see them from. They look different whether you see them from Europe or Asia or Africa. But regardless of time or place, economists and historians generally tend to look at industrial revolutions through the lens of innovation. And in my short talk today I want to encourage a different way of thinking about this.
I wanted to give you a little bit of perspective on Otlet’s broader vision, which I think is in a way even more interesting as a reference point for thinking about some of the changes we’re seeing today as our lives are increasingly reshaped by technology and networks. What Otlet offers is a different way into that space, and a different way of thinking about what a networked world could look like.