The Web Is 30. Here's What Its Inventor Thinks

Yolanda Curtis
March 14, 2019

In a letter published on Monday, Berners-Lee hailed the opportunities the web had created, giving marginalised groups a voice and making daily life easier. Initially, Berners-Lee envisioned "a large hypertext database with typed links,"named "Mesh", to help his colleagues at CERN (a large nuclear physics laboratory in Switzerland) share information amongst multiple computers". March 12 marks three full decades after the World Wide Web (or WWW) launched.

Sir Tim invented the World Wide Web because he was frustrated to have to constantly log on to a different computer every time he wanted to access different information not on his main computer. "It's about sitting with other participants and working out how to find the balance between leaving tech companies to do the right thing and regulating them, and between freedom of speech and hate speech".

The letter comes on the web's 30th birthday, but Berners-Lee says there's really nothing to celebrate: The web has "created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit", he wrote. By the end of 1990, he had implemented key components, namely html, http and URL, and created the first Web server, browser and editor.

"The challenges come from the same things that make it (the Web) wonderful, and that's the difficulty", said conference panelist Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Information and Library Science.

But, before Berners-Lee got permission to build his system, which he modestly named "the World Wide Web, ' he needed to work hard first before this dream 'piece" to materialize.

In January the following year the web was released outside Cern to other research institutions, before being opened to the general public on the Internet seven months later. The objective of showcasing it online is to let people know the origin, as well as, the importance of the web, and also emphasizing that people nowadays are abusing the advantages offered by the tool. Search marketers owe their livelihood to Berners-Lee.

But, he argued, it would be "defeatist and unimaginative" to think we can not change his invention for the better. He was named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time magazine. It is our journey, he said, from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible and inclusive future.

"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", he wrote.

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