Exactly 30 years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a research paper which would become the blueprint for today’s Internet. Today, more than half – or only half, depending on how you look at it – of the world has access to the Internet, and countless makers built successful businesses which would have not been possible without it.
To celebrate the anniversary of the World Wide Web, we collected some of the best quotes from Tim Berners-Lee about the current state and the future of the Internet.
Did we imagine that people would do bad things on the web? Absolutely. From very early on, we knew that if it’s a powerful technology, then it’s going to be used for good and bad, just like all other powerful technologies. But initially our feeling philosophically was that the web should be a neutral medium. It’s not for the web to try to correct humanity. The web would hopefully lead to humanity becoming more connected, and therefore, maybe more sympathetic to itself — and therefore, perhaps less conflict-ridden. That was our hope. (source)
We’ve lost control of our personal data The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this – albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents – but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services. But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data and chose when and with whom to share it. (source)
It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain. (source)
On the role of governments:
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 and who will stand up to protect the open web. (source)
On the role of citizens:
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. If we don’t elect politicians who defend a free and open web, if we don’t do our part to foster constructive healthy conversations online, if we continue to click consent without demanding our data rights be respected, we walk away from our responsibility to put these issues on the priority agenda of our governments. (source)
You can read this year’s full open letter written by Tim Berners-Lee to market the 30th anniversary of the Internet on Webfoundation.org.