5 Fast Facts About the World Wide Web on Its 30th Birthday

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iStock.com/mactrunk

Though the World Wide Web has only been around for a few decades, it's practically impossible to imagine life without it today. In honor of its 30th birthday—a milestone celebrated by today's Google Doodlehere are some facts about the system that keeps the world connected.

1. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

Thirty years ago, CERN computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee proposed an idea for a database of hypertext links that would allow people to send data and communicate across a network. Berners-Lee wasn't looking to transform modern life when he invented the World Wide Web; he had just gotten tired of having to switch computers whenever he needed to access information that wasn't on his main work computer.

2. There's a difference between the internet and the World Wide Web.

Start of World Wide Web address on internet browser.
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Though the terms are often used interchangeably, the internet and the World Wide Web are not the same. Many experts peg the start of the internet to September 2, 1969, when a team of computer scientists at UCLA got two computers to send data to each other through a network for the first time. Twenty years later, the World Wide Web made this technology user-friendly and accessible to the public.

3. The world's first website is still online.

Many websites from the early days of the Web have gone dark, but the first one is still live. Berners-Lee brought the site online from a lab in the Swiss Alps in 1991. Even though it looks primitive, the site has actually been updated from its original state several times.

4. The first image ever uploaded is very '90s.

In 1992, Berners-Lee needed a photo to test out the World Wide Web's new image-hosting capabilities. An IT developer shot a photograph of a comedy band, Les Horribles Cernettes, which was comprised of other CERN employees at the Swiss lab where they worked [PDF]. When the picture was uploaded, it made history as the first image ever shared on the Web.

5. Berners-Lee has mixed feelings about his invention today.

Over the past 30 years, Berners-Lee has watched his creation evolve into a force he could have never envisioned. In an open letter published to mark the World Wide Web's 30th birthday, he wrote, "while the web has created opportunity, given marginalized groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit." He urged people to fight to minimize the negative consequences of the Web, such as harassment, polarizing discourse, and the spread of misinformation.

What's the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?

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iStock.com/Grassetto

Despite using it every day, the internet is still a mystery to many of its users. If asked to explain how your home internet connection works, you may start with your router and modem. Both devices are essential to setting up a wireless network, but they serve distinct functions. Here are the major differences between the two pieces of hardware that make home internet run.

What is a Modem?

Cable modem.
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The modem is your home's gateway to the World Wide Web. It's often a skinny box with a row of LED icons on the front that tell you if it's on and connected to the internet. The name is short for modulator-demodulator—a phrase left over from the days of dial-up when modems worked by modulating telephone signals into frequencies that could send digital information.

Today, most modems use broadband connections like cable or satellite to transmit data. There are different types of modems built to fit different connections. If your internet service provider (ISP) uses cable or fiber internet, you'll need to plug a cable into the back of your modem, and if you still use a digital subscriber line (DSL), you'll have to plug in a phone line.

What is a Router?

Internet router.
iStock.com/farakos

You can connect to the internet with just a modem as long as you don't mind plugging your device directly into the Ethernet port. But if you want to provide internet to all the laptops, desktops, and smartphones in your home at the same time, you'll need a router.

Routers usually lie flat and have antennas sticking out of them. The router hooks up to your modem via an Ethernet cable and acts as a conduit between the direct internet and your home network. After connecting your devices, the router "routes" your modem's networking traffic their way, either through Ethernet wires or wirelessly through Wi-Fi (that's what the antennas are for). The router also works in the other direction by routing data sent from your computer back to the web.

Why Knowing the Difference Matters

When they've been sitting in the same spot in your home for years, it's easy to think of your router and modem as basically the same thing. But it's worth knowing the difference—especially if you care about improving your internet connection. Now that you know the router is what directs Wi-Fi signals, you can boost your home network by placing it in a central location away from electronic appliances. And as long as it doesn't interfere with the router, feel free to hide your modem behind a houseplant.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Hackers Used Facebook Quizzes to Steal Data from 60,000 Users

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iStock.com/bombuscreative

It’s been a tumultuous few months for Facebook. A data breach in fall 2018 exposed information about 30 million of its users to hackers. Only a few months later, the company was also criticized for paying individuals to voluntarily install an app that collected information about their smartphone habits. Now, it’s dealing with concerns that some of the quizzes available on the platform have been used to collect data from unsuspecting users.

According to CNN, the scheme is detailed in a lawsuit Facebook filed in California last week against developers Andrey Gorbachov and Gleb Sluchevsky. The defendants, who are based in Kiev, Ukraine, allegedly created quizzes like, “Do you have royal blood?” or “What does your eye color say about you?” as a way to access private user data. When Facebook users interacted with these tests, they were prompted to install browser extensions that allowed the alleged hackers to pose as those users, collecting information as well as taking control of their browsers. The improperly obtained information consisted of names, ages, and friend lists, which hackers then used for targeted advertising that they injected into users' feeds.

It’s possible the breach also resulted in the publication of 81,000 private messages in 2018, which was initially blamed on unspecified malware browser extensions that have not yet been publicly identified. Facebook has yet to confirm the two incidents are related, however.

Facebook said that the primary targets of the operation were Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking users, with 60,000 browsers compromised.

This isn't the only time Facebook quizzes have been tied to data breaches. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica controversy revealed that the firm used quizzes and questionnaires on Facebook to surreptitiously compile data on millions of users.

So what should you do about it? Online security experts caution against third-party apps that are accessed through Facebook. If you’re concerned about utilities that you installed without much thought, you can see a list by clicking on Settings, then the Apps link on the left menu. If you don’t recognize an app, it’s best to delete it.

[h/t CNN]

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