A New Discipline
Keeping it Benign
The Web has grown beyond anyone's wildest imagination and this has led to all kinds of legal issues and new ways of social interaction. Such issues and trends run the gamut from social networking to virtual identity theft. The newest scientific discipline, Web science, endeavors to identify the means through which Web trends come into being and how these can be manipulated into remaining benign entities that help rather than hinder or harm mankind. As the Web continues to make important advances, there has to be a coexisting effort toward resolving issues that arise and might threaten our security or abuse society's trust.
The World Wide Web began to burgeon in the middle of the 1990's, and now consists of more than 15 billion WebPages relating to every facet of life on modern planet earth. We need the Web to do our jobs and run our government. We use it to perform errands like banking. Health care, too, has undergone a revolution as a result of Internet and the Web.
The Web has also spawned numerous applications that change the way we interact and order our lives. E-mail was the precursor of instant messaging, which led to social networking via MySpace and Facebook. File-sharing sites such as the one birthed by Napster have evolved into portals that can be shaped by users, for instance YouTube. And then there's our ability to tag content so as to share our everyday lives with people anywhere in the world.
But there aren't many researchers taking on the work of what has happened and how we can keep it all in balance. There's no one with a crystal ball ready to tell us what the future holds or to explain the implications of all of this on society. Therefore, the infant discipline, termed Web science, was created with the aim of addressing all of these issues and maybe more.
The time line goes like this: we found a way to build a computer and then we developed computer science which was followed not long after by computing. In 2006, Web science was born as a formal discipline at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southampton in the UK where the launching of the Web Science Research Initiative was announced. Today, a total of 18 universities located in many parts of the world have devoted energy to this newest of scientific endeavors. Web science is the field of the future, and of today.