The World Wide Web turned 30 this week.

Woo hoo.

Frankly, I must say I am no fan of what the Internet has done to society.

Oh, sure, there are positive aspects of the online experience. It makes it easy to do research for things, like, say, weekly newspaper columns.

It makes it easy to share pictures of your kids with their grandparents.

But beyond that, I’m pretty sure it does more harm than good.

There’s the fact that people are so screen-addicted they are crashing cars and walking into things. There’s the couple sitting at a nice meal in a restaurant staring at their devices instead of each other. There’s the cognitive function of preschool-age children being compromised by too much screen time. There’s the rampant misinformation.

Aside from all that, remember when – at the outset – the Internet was touted as a great unifier. People could exchange ideas freely and learn from one another.

Yeah. How’d that work out?

We as a culture are more divided than ever. The Internet is a place where people takes sides. There is no middle ground.

I don’t care if you’re talking about politics, climate change, vaccinations or dogs and cats – everybody takes a side and nobody is going to change their mind – about anything – ever.

And there are legions of people lining up behind those obstinate folks, cheering them on.

But mainly, the Internet has become a place for a few people to make money – gobs and gobs of money.

And you thought big box stores were hard on local mom-and-pop operations? How about that Amazon?

Jeff Bezos isn’t going to stop until he runs everybody but himself out of business.

Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, Zappos, Twitch, Diva Systems,, Quidsi, Elemental Tech, Annapurna Labs, Audible, Alexa, Goodreads, Woot, and IMDB.

Bezos has invested in Living Social, Twilio,, Bill Me Later,,,, Ionic Security, and Songza.

Then there’s Bezo’s Expeditions. That’s the outfit that manages his venture capital investments, which include Lookout, Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, Workday, Vessel, Domo, Fundbox, Stack Overflow, Everfi, Remitly, Rethink Robotics, General Fusion, Twitter, MakerBot and Business Insider.

On a personal level, he was one of the first investors in Google in 1998. He also invested $112 million in Airbnb and $37 million in Uber.

Let’s not forget Nash Holdings, the private company owned by Bezos which bought the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million.

And look out, Elon Musk and Tesla. As Tesla has been struggling a bit lately,  Amazon is leading a $700 million investment in electric carmaker Rivian. Seems Bezos is expanding into the electric/ self-driving car market.

And beware, SpaceX. Bezos also is the founder of Blue Origin, a rocket company that could start offering trips into space for paying customers later this year.

(Hat tip to for the compendium of Bezos holdings.)

All of this hinges on the success of Amazon, a company Bezos started in 1994 to sell books online. Today, of course, it’s the world’s largest online sales company.

Speaking of sales, how about digital advertising?

Google and Facebook are entrenched at the top of the digital ad food chain, gobbling up fully 60 percent of all ad buys in 2018 – Google, 38.2 percent and Facebook, 21.8 percent.

But for the first time this year, the Google/FB duopoly will lose ground. Why? Because “Amazon has quietly been building a multi-billion dollar advertising arm that generates revenue by charging companies to promote their products on Amazon properties,” according to

All of this is very, very good for these tech giants, but I can’t help but wonder if it is good for the rest of us.

Is this what the Internet was designed to do? Is it healthy to pile all of that wealth and market share into one or two baskets? I thought a monopoly was not a good thing.

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but it just doesn’t seem economically healthy to me.

Or to Tim Berners-Lee, the English computer scientist who is generally regarded as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

(Sorry, it wasn’t Al Gore.)

He’s launched some pretty stinging attacks on Google, Facebook and Twitter for exploiting personal data for financial gain and promoting misinformation.

This past week, he published a letter in which he critiques the Internet, 30 years later.

He says, in part: “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.

Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it’s understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good.  ... If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.

He then outlines three “sources of dysfunction” that must be addressed.

• Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior, and online harassment.

• System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.

• Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarized tone and quality of online discourse.

Then he suggests steps to be taken through a “Contract for the Web.”

Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online. We need open web champions within government — civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good ...

Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind. ...

And most important of all, citizens must hold companies and governments accountable for the commitments they make, and demand that both respect the web as a global community with citizens at its heart.

A group called the Web Foundation is working with governments, companies and citizens to implement the “Contract for the Web.”

I wish them all the luck in the world. They’re going to need it.