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What's so special about the internet anyway?

Why is the internet such a big step forward in human communication? Our last leap in progress was the printing press, and communication culture is still catching up with technology. We tend to conceptualize the internet like an inexpensive paperless printing press. We proclaim that everyone is now able to publish their own content with little or no cost. While this expanded access to publishing is truly amazing, it's not the best part! What sets this new media apart is the searchability of the internet. The fact that you can go to a search engine and find web content is the aspect of internet communication that is truly unique and precious.

It's the realization of a centuries old objective in fact. The early ancestors of the electronic computers were mechanical devices developed to meet the needs that arose as a direct result of the printing press - the need to catalogue, store and retrieve information printed in books.

From the first calculating machine presented to the Royal Society of Natural Philosophers in 1670 by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (who called for the creation of an empirical database as a way to further all sciences), to modern times and Google's advent on the internet in 1998 (arguably our most successful attempt to create the database Leibniz called for); the ways in which we've catalogued and stored, searched for and retrieved information have played a role in the development of every one the electronic devices that are now the heart of all modern communications. As computing is all about data storage and retrieval, the internet is all about search and find. Both those needs are so critical they've inspired centuries of creative endeavors, and a fascinating wealth of now-obscure technologies.

I've been building websites and working with search engines since before the days of Google, and it's been an fascinating era in which to be a nerd. Watching search engines develop since the mid-90's has been amazing, and I can't wait to see what developments in search the next 10 years will bring.





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