There is a documentary about the history of the web. It’s an hour long, and now it’s free to watch.
Also, I’m in it — a fair amount, it turns out. Please do not let this dissuade you from watching it.
I’m blogging about this because there’s a little bit of a backstory. Jeffrey and I were backers of the film during its crowdfunding campaign. At that point, Jeffrey had been already interviewed for the film, but even beside that, we really wanted the film to exist in the world. So much of the history of our craft has been lost, or simply untold. So we put some of AEA’s resources into supporting the project, and were glad to see it meet its funding goal. So, you know, full disclosure and all: I’m a backer of the film, and I’m in it. Jeffrey, too.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out most of the people who appear in the film were also backers of the film. This probably makes it sound like people paid to be featured, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the exact opposite: the people featured in the film are featured because they’re the kind of people who would badly want to see such a thing exist in the first place, and lend material support to the effort. They’re all people who truly love the craft and want to see it documented, explained, and shared with as many people as possible. The kind of people who learned from others, and in turn taught others, freely sharing what they knew. In some cases, paying out of pocket to share what they knew, in hopes that the sharing would help someone. I think that ethos comes through bright and clear in the film.
If you want to understand the heart of the web, understand that. It was designed and built and fundamentally shaped from its earliest days by people who wanted it to be open and free and accessible to anyone, whether as a consumer or a creator. Those were the founding principles. They shape every aspect of the web we know, for good or ill or otherwise.
Some time after the film was crowdfunded — about a year and a half, I think — Matt, the film’s director, editor, and all-around prime mover, drove up from his office in Pittsburgh to my office in Cleveland to shoot some of the last segments to be recorded. So he asked me the questions he still wanted someone to answer, or that had arisen as he’d started editing all the other interviews. Thus I show up a lot in the first half of the film, talking about the early days of the web, and am mostly absent in the second half, as the younger crowd talks about the great stuff that happened as the web matured. Which is proper, I think.
But! I hasten to add, there are way, way smarter and better-spoken people in the film than me, all the way through, sketching out the path this field took and what makes the web so incredibly compelling and powerful even today. It’s company I’m honored and humbled to be part of. If you can spare an hour, say a lunch break, I highly recommend you devote it to What Comes Next is the Future.