• University of Southampton

Web Science: How the Web Is Changing the World

Explore how the web has changed our world and what the future might hold, with this free online course introducing Web Science.

44,069 enrolled on this course

" "
  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

You may already be an avid user of the Web, but this introduction to Web Science will help you better understand it as both a social and technical system - a global information infrastructure, built from the interactions of people and technologies.

This free online course is based on our experience of trying to understand how the Web has grown and changed through technical innovation, economics, politics and everyday use.

Explore the past and future of the Web

In Week 1, we’ll ask what would happen if the Web was switched off right now. We’ll use this question to explore the history of the Internet and find out why we’re so dependent on it today. You’ll have the opportunity to contribute to the course, by telling us how you use the Web in your part of the world.

In Week 2, we’ll look to the future, finding out how emerging trends – including big data, the semantic web and the Internet of Things – will change both the infrastructure of the Web and the ways in which we use it.

By following this course, you will have a greater understanding of the Web and begin to develop skills for the digital era – skills that are useful for everyday life and widely sought by the technology-driven employers of today.

Learn with well-known experts in Web Science

You’ll learn with well-known experts from the University of Southampton’s Web Science Institute, including lead educators, Professors Leslie Carr and Susan Halford, and contributors, Professors Dame Wendy Hall and Sir Nigel Shadbolt.

They will provide you with an understanding of the way that the technology of the Web interacts with our economy, society and culture. Other University of Southampton Web Science courses are an Introduction to Linked Data and the Semantic Web and The Power of Social Media.

Sarah - a previous learners on the course - enjoyed it so much, that she’s gone on to take a PhD in Web Science with the University of Southampton. “I was just absolutely fascinated by everything in the course,” she says. Read Sarah’s story.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds PROFESSOR DAME WENDY HALL: The Web is transforming society.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds PROFESSOR SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: It’s changed everything we do, the way we make love and war. Pretty well, everything’s been changed by it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 seconds PROFESSOR LES CARR: For better or for worse, the Web is transforming the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds PROFESSOR SUSAN HALFORD: But the Web is not just a technology. The Web is what technologies and people have done together.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds WENDY HALL: This is the most important thing that’s happening at the moment. The development of the Web and the internet and how that’s changing everything about what we do, how we communicate with each other, how we manage ourselves as a society. It’s so, so important. But we really don’t understand it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds LES CARR: Well, it is a vast subject. And we’re only just scratching at the surfaces at the moment. But what you’ll get from a short course like this is just an introduction. I hope it will do something that will make you curious and start to see the Web in a new way. You’ll start to understand what it really is. A network not just of computers across the whole world, but a network of people using computers. And the computers changing the way that they do those things. We just want to introduce you to some of those ideas.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds SUSAN HALFORD: If you think about the fact that at the click of a mouse, we can access millions of pages of information from a global library of documents, within seconds. The exciting thing is that you’d get a taster of Web science. And I think the other thing you would get is access to people who are absolutely the world experts in Web science.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds NIGEL SHADBOLT: This course is going to give you insights at all levels in the Web, the shape and structure the Web, how we use it to solve problems together, how democracy is being changed by the way we interact on the Web, how science is being changed.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 seconds WENDY HALL: We want to encourage people to really think about Web science and think about doing a degree in Web science. But very few people understand what it is we’re talking about.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 second SUSAN HALFORD: Web science is the name that we have given to an area of study that is trying to understand the impact that the Web is having on the world and the way that the Web is changing.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds LES CARR: I hope what we’ll be able to do with this is to make you think about the Web in a different way.

Skip to 2 minutes and 15 seconds NIGEL SHADBOLT: In the ways it’s empowering both consumers and citizens in countries all around the world. And it ain’t done yet.

What topics will you cover?

  • Web Science: concept of both a social and technical system
  • Factors influencing the history of the Web
  • The Web around the world: global differences
  • Access to the web: universal access and net neutrality
  • Next steps for the web: the Semantic Web and the Internet of Things
  • The Web we want: suggestions for improving the existing Web
  • Web Science: where is research leading us?

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the history and evolution of the Web both as a social and technical communication system
  • Assess the role of the Web in economy, society, and culture
  • Debate controversial issues relating to the Web such as Net Neutrality
  • Reflect upon the impact of novel technologies such as the Semantic Web and the Internet of Things on the Web
  • Explore the role of governance in creating a fairer and more effective Web

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone who wishes to further their understanding of the way that the technology of the Web interacts with our economy, society and culture.

Who will you learn with?

A Professor in the Web Science Institute and Director of Doctoral and Masters programmes in Web Science and Web Technology at the University of Southampton. Researches Open Source & Open Data.

I am Professor of Sociology and a Director of the Web Science Institute . I teach on the Web Science undergraduate, MSc & PhD Programmes & research digital data & digital methods.

Who developed the course?

University of Southampton

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLwebsci to talk about this course on social media.