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Long live the Web

Posted: December 5, 2011

What’s exciting about the Web is that people are building new social systems, new systems of review, new systems of governance. My hope is that those will produce new ways of working together effectively and fairly, which we can use globally to manage ourselves as a planet. Nothing like the Web has ever happened in all of human history. The scale of its impact and the rate of its adoption are unparalleled. This is a great opportunity as well as an obligation. If we are to ensure the Web benefits the human race we must first do our best to understand it. The Web is the largest human information construct in history. The Web is transforming society. In order to understand what the Web is, engineer its future and ensure its social benefit we need a new interdisciplinary field that we call Web Science.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

The world wide web went live, on my physical desktop in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 1990. It consisted of one Web site and one browser, which happened to be on the same computer. The simple setup demonstrated a profound concept: that any person could share information with anyone else, anywhere. In this spirit, the Web spread quickly from the grassroots up. Today, at its 20th anniversary, the Web is thoroughly integrated into our daily lives. We take it for granted, expecting it to “be there” at any instant, like electricity.

The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

Why should you care? Because the Web is yours.

 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is coming exclusively to Gulltaggen 2012. For more information and tickets, see gulltaggen.no.

Text source: Scientific American