As Web Turns 20, Voting Information Slowly Comes of Age


[Image courtesy of latimes]

The World Wide Web celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday. From a piece by the Los Angeles Times:

It was 20 years ago today that the World Wide Web was opened to all, setting off one of the biggest transformations in technology and altering the way we communicate. To celebrate the occasion, the creator has brought the world’s first website back to life.

Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, launched the world’s first website [pictured above – ed.] in the early 1990s. The site only included text and instructions on how to use the World Wide Web, an Internet network that was designed for universities to share research.

On April 30, 1993, the website was updated with a statement announcing that the source code for the World Wide Web would be available for everyone, turning “www” into a ubiquitous line for accessing the Internet.

That same Times article includes the following staggering statistic: “By the end of 1993, there were more than 500 websites. By 2013, an estimated 630 million websites exist on the World Wide Web.”

Of course, even with the explosive growth since 1993 there are still areas, remarkably, where the Web doesn’t yet reach. The folks at Pew have just released a series of data visualizations about how well states are (or aren’t) using the Web and other tools to reach voters.

Those visualizations find that voting information online still varies significantly state by state; while all but two states (California and Vermont) offer polling place lookup tools, only half of the states offer voters an online sample ballot and even fewer permit a voter to check on the status of her provisional ballot.

As more and more Americans go online to get information about elections, these gaps in the Web (which now feeds not just computers but the full array of mobile devices of today and tomorrow) are going to become even more pronounced.

The Web, quite simply, is a part of our everyday lives. The challenge continues to be to ensure that it contains information that can help every day – and especially before Election Day.

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