(Revised at May. 24, 2008)
(Revised at Sep. 28, 2007)
The reason beneath the evolution of World Wide Web has two folds. Fold one is due to a natural and general law of evolution. Fold two is about the relation between human and the Web, hence it is artificial and specific. The two folds are closely related to each other.
On the natural and general fold, World Wide Web is an objective existence. When the Web evolves, it has to follow the natural laws of evolutions. On the artificial and specific fold, World Wide Web is a man-made project. We cannot neglect the impact of humans in the progress of Web evolution. The entire progress of Web evolution thus is a process of mutual-interaction between the two folds.
Natural and General Fold of Web Evolution
Postulate 1: Web evolution is a directional, stagewise process.
By definition, evolution is a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage (especially a more advanced or mature stage). In philosophy, such an evolutionary progress obeys a general law of dialectics---the Law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality. If the advance of World Wide Web is also an evolutionary process, Web evolution must also follow this general law of evolution.
The Law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality tells that prompt qualitative changes are always caused by gradual quantitative alterations. For example, if a book has 100 pages as opposed to 50 pages, it is a quantitative change. However, if we reduce its size to be only one page, it is no longer a book. This is, thus, a qualitative change. As another example, a piece of ice remains being ice when its temperature rises but still below zero centigrade. This is a quantitative change. When this quantitative change continues until the temperature passes beyond zero centigrade, ice thaws and becomes water. Then we say that the accumulation of this continuously quantitative change eventually causes a qualitative change so that ice becomes water.
The Web evolution must also obey this law. In contrast to a continuously gradual process, the Web must evolve with sudden leaps and catastrophes, which are the transitional periods between consecutive stages of Web evolution. Every stage of Web evolution can be described by a unique quality. The transition from a lower stage to a higher stage is a qualitative upgrade. Within a single stage, we have have quantitative accumulation of Web evolution. By this recognition, a key issue of Web evolution study is to look for the evolutionary elements that can be measured by quantity and quality.
Artificial and Special Fold of Web Evolution
Postulate 2: the growth of World Wide Web is a nonstop process that stepwisely embodying human minds into a virtual world.
By nature humans are afraid of death and desire eternal life. Religions in human society are prevalent because of this desire of life after death. Besides religions, however, humans have also invented other approaches to have alternative types of immorality. One particular way is to author great work (which could be such as book, art work, or great building) in history. Through the great work, it is not only the names of the authors are remembered and become immortal, but also the thought of the authors become immortal since the great work represents the highlights of the authors' mind. This last approach towards immortality is a popular one that satisfies almost everybody because it is probably the most "doable" way for humans to perform comparing to all kinds of religious approaches.
There is another reason behind the popularity of authoring. This approach is a good way to preserve human knowledge in history. By preserving knowledge, we humans can improve ourselves better by learning the experiences and lessons from our ancestors. Hence by encouraging authoring our human society may achieve a collectively maximized advantage of evolution.
Although authoring is greatly attractive to both individuals and society, traditionally it has a main drawback. Only few really great work can be properly kept by people in long history of mankind, let it alone the risk of all kinds of man-made or natural disasters such as war or earthquake. As the result, most of the people in history were not able to leave anything memorable in the world. Hence both of the individual perspective of immortality and the collective perspective of preserving human knowledge are failed. It explains why humans are eager to find a cheap approach that can preserve human mind for everybody and can be kept forever disregarding all kinds of man-made or natural disasters.
The invention of World Wide Web finally solves this long-term issue. On World Wide Web, everybody, no matter he is rich or poor or he is wise or stupid, have the same privilege to author their mind. The Web will keep every authored work equally forever that disregards the quality of each work. This promise is a crucial reason behind the flourishing of World Wide Web because it automatically satisfies both individuals and the collective society.
One more phenomenon shows how much individual Web users are like to author on the Web. It has reported that many bloggers right now keep on blogging their daily life with very few or none readers every day. Certainly analysts have suggested various explanations on this phenomenon. But one thing is missed by many of these analysts. These people are just blogging their mind so that they demonstrate their once existence in this world. This desire of being known is beyond money and entertaining. And this is why the growth of the Web is primarily a process of nonstop materialization of human mind into a virtual world.
Moreover, this progress of nonstop materialization is a stepwise process. Due to the technological limitation, we are not able to effectively materialize all types of our mind onto the Web. Some types of mind activities such as conditional reflex are feasible to implement by the present technology. Some others such as emotion are infeasible by the present technology. Hence the implementation of human mind onto the Web is a long-term progressive process. By the first postulate we learn that continuously quantitative accumulation must eventually cause qualitative change. We can then declare that the progressive implementation process must also be stepwise.
The evolution of World Wide Web is driven primarily by web-resource producers instead of consumers. This is a discovery directly drawn from the two postulates. World Wide Web would not have been evolved rapidly if it is a consumer-driven web. The reason is that only the few profitable Web nodes could survive after competition in a consumer-driven web. By contrast, World Wide Web is a producer-driven web because the majority of the web-resource producers contribute to the Web for the purpose that is beyond money.
These two postulates are the foundation of the study of Web evolution. Although they seem to be highly abstract and philosophical, from them we will derive seven practical corollaries. The two postulates and seven corollaries will compose an entire theory of Web evolution.
Readers who are interested in this topic could also watch the web evolution article (Part 2). The referenced link is an older version of this series (a little bit out of update). But it may contain more details of my thought about Web evolution.
The next: Web Evolution and Human Growth
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
(Revised at May. 24, 2008)