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

iStock.com/mactrunk
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.

Now Ear This: A New App Can Detect a Child's Ear Infection

iStock.com/Techin24
iStock.com/Techin24

Generally speaking, using an internet connection to diagnose a medical condition is rarely recommended. But technology is getting better at outpacing skepticism over handheld devices guiding decisions and suggesting treatment relating to health care. The most recent example is an app that promises to identify one of the key symptoms of ear infections in kids.

The Associated Press reports that researchers at the University of Washington are close to finalizing an app that would allow a parent to assess whether or not their child has an ear infection using their phone, some paper, and some soft noises. A small piece of paper is folded into a funnel shape and inserted into the ear canal to focus the app's sounds (which resemble bird chirps) toward the child’s ear. The app measures sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. If pus or fluid is present, the sound waves will be altered, indicating a possible infection. The parent would then receive a text from the app notifying them of the presence of buildup in the middle ear.

The University of Washington tested the efficacy of the app by evaluating roughly 50 patients scheduled to undergo ear surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The app was able to identify fluid in patients' ears about 85 percent of the time. That’s roughly as well as traditional exams, which involve visual identification as well as specialized acoustic devices.

While the system looks promising, not all cases of fluid in the ear are the result of infections or require medical attention. Parents would need to evaluate other symptoms, such as fever, if they intend to use the app to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. It may prove most beneficial in children with persistent fluid accumulation, a condition that needs to be monitored over the course of months when deciding whether a drain tube needs to be placed. Checking for fluid at home would save both time and money compared to repeated visits to a physician.

The app does not yet have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and there is no timetable for when it might be commercially available. If it passes muster, it would join a number of FDA-approved “smart” medical diagnostic tools, including the AliveKor CardiaBand for the Apple Watch, which conducts EKG monitoring for heart irregularities.

[h/t WGRZ]

Uber Passengers Can Now Shush Their Drivers with a Mute Button

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Even friendly and sociable people don't always feel like talking, especially if it's late, they're sad, or they're in the middle of an arduous trip. For customers of the ride-sharing service app Uber, there's now a way to terminate conversation with drivers. You simply push a button on your phone and request they stop talking.

This slightly dystopian feature is part of Uber Black, the app's premium interface for people looking for a ride in a luxury vehicle and drivers with top satisfaction ratings. If a passenger isn't in the mood for chatting, hitting "quiet preferred" on the app will notify the driver to stop speaking. They can also opt for "happy to chat" if they care to engage in conversation. It's part of a bundle of features that also allows users to ask for help with their luggage, request more time to get to the vehicle, or adjust the temperature inside the car.

The button is an attempt by Uber to address some of the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between driver and passenger for the service, which allows both parties to rate the other on the overall experience. Some passengers have felt that being uninterested in speaking to their driver might lead to a lower score.

The quiet button might eventually be rolled out to encompass all of Uber's platforms. If the idea of a human mute button is uncomfortable, passengers can also choose "no preference" and let conversation—or the lack of it—takes its natural course.

[h/t Vox]

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