The first programme examines if the World Wide Web is a "great leveller", and how this has developed the web. Looking at the web as an empowering tool and the access provided to knowledge, Krotoski visits Einar Kvaran, contributor to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. To understand how the web gave rise to Wikipedia, she looks at early online community The WELL, which flourished from the counter-culture and libertarianism of the 1960s, speaking to founder Stewart Brand and John Perry Barlow, who spoke up for online freedom. Al Gore speaks about blogs and expressing ideas, and Krotoski visits Ory Okolloh, founder of Ushahidi, which gave people a voice following the unrest after the 2007 Kenyan elections. She then talks with Sir Tim Berners-Lee about inventing the World Wide Web while he was at CERN in the 1980s. Kenyan farmer Kudjo Agbevi discusses empowerment, and Berners-Lee, Barlow and Andrew Keen speak about the lack of a controlling authority and hierarchy. Krotoski then examines the conflict between freedom/collaboration and making a profit, speaking to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Charles Leadbeater. Shawn Fanning then talks about the beginnings of Napster, challenging traditional business models. YouTube founder Chad Hurley talks about user-generated content and rapper Master Shortie tells Krotoski about using the web as a promotional tool. Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post speaks about combining old and new media, Keen talks about hierarchy and Berners-Lee warns of central control. Krotoski speaks to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia about the community structure and to conclude, contributors talk about hierarchy. Other contributors include Lee Siegel, Steve Wozniak and Stephen Fry.
The Virtual Revolution is a British television documentary series presented by Aleks Krotoski, which began airing on BBC Two on 30 January 2010. A co-production between the BBC and the Open University, the series looks at the impact the World Wide Web has had since its inception 20 years ago. The series took on a different approach to BBC documentary making by encouraging an open and collaborative production.
The series was announced on 10 July 2009, under the working title of Digital Revolution, to examine the impact the World Wide Web has had on society over its first 20 years. Technology journalist and academic Aleks Krotoski would present. The series was launched with an event at the BBC to mark the twentieth anniversary of the World Wide Web, which saw Tim Berners-Lee (credited with inventing the World Wide Web), Susan Greenfield, Bill Thompson and Chris Anderson discuss the World Wide Web.
The production team took a different approach to the development of the series, described by series producer Russell Barnes as "radical" and "open-source": "We don't just want to observe bloggers from on high; we want to blog ourselves and get feedback and comment on our ideas." He described the four phases the production would take; firstly conducting interviews and inviting comments from users on the programme's blog, the second would see rushes released for other to re-use under a permissive licence, thirdly, web users would be engaged, working with the Web Science Research Initiative, and the fourth would be an online, interactive version of the series available after it has finished.
The programme team interviewed a number of people who have played a part in the development of the web, including its inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and founders of notable brands; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Wozniak (Apple), Chad Hurley (YouTube), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Stewart Brand (The WELL), Biz Stone and Evan Williams (Twitter), Peter Thiel (PayPal) and Martha Lane Fox (lastminute.com). Academics, including Terry Winograd, Sherry Turkle, A. C. Grayling, David Runciman, Ross Anderson and Nigel Shadbolt, commentators, including David Weinberger, Lee Siegel, Douglas Rushkoff, Andrew Keen and Stephen Fry, and Estonian President Toomas Ilves were also interviewed. Footage of the interviews was also made available on the programme's website.
In October 2009 and while being interviewed for the series, Stephen Fry made a request on Twitter for people to suggest names for the series, with the final decision being made by the BBC. The chosen title, The Virtual Revolution, is described by the producers as "a mashup between us and you"