How the Web Was Won, an oral history of the Internet in Vanity Fair

June 4th, 2008

This month’s Vanity Fair has a feature article that lays out “an oral history of the Internet” in How the Web Was Won, part of a series of oral histories.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of an extraordinary moment. In 1958 the United States government set up a special unit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), to help jump-start new efforts in science and technology. This was the agency that would nurture the Internet. … To observe this year’s twin anniversaries, Vanity Fair set out to do something that has never been done: to compile an oral history, speaking with scores of people involved in every stage of the Internet’s development, from the 1950s onward. From more than 100 hours of interviews we have distilled and edited their words into a concise narrative of the past half-century—a history of the Internet in the words of the people who made it.”

There are lots of people missing or mentioned only in passing. I suppose this is an unavoidable result of people’s willingness or availability to be interviewed and the need to have a diverse set of subjects for a general article. Still, I don’t see how an oral history titled “How the Web Was Won” can not have Tim Berners-Lee as a central player or mention the W3C.

I also missed a look, however brief, at where we are headed with the internet. While this is offered as a history, not mentioning the future suggests its done, which is far from the case.