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Tim Berners-Lee wants to fix the web, 30 years on

08 November, 2018, 06:38 | Author: Tara Roberts
  • Sir Tim Berners Lee

At the Web Summit Technology Conference in Lisbon, Tim Berners Lee announced that he is working on "Contract for the Web" that will revolutionize the Internet, as we know it.

Berners-Lee wants to fix the broken internet and has, through his World Wide Web Foundation, released a "Contract for the Web" that includes guidelines for corporations, governments, and citizens such that they ensure an "open web" for all.

"For many years there was a feeling that the wonderful things on the web were going to dominate and we'd have a world with less conflict, more understanding, more and better science, and good democracy. We have fake news, we have problems with privacy, we have people being profiled and manipulated", he said in an opening address at a tech gathering in Lisbon, Portugal. Berners-Lee is against this, claiming that "if you sign up to the principles, you can't do censorship".

Employees of Google, Facebook and other tech giants have in recent months gone public with their regrets, calling the products they helped build harmful to society and overly addictive.

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In addition, Berners-Lee has also recently established a small startup called Inrupt, which will promote uptake of an open-source project called Solid - both of which allow users to take control of their own data. The two tech giants now have direct influence over almost three quarters of all internet traffic thanks to the vast amounts of apps and services they own such as YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram. "Maybe it's a myth", Berners-Lee said, pushing back on the idea that tech companies need to collect data to be profitable. "Women and girls are much less likely to have access (to the internet)". The year 2019 also marks the Web's 30th anniversary. "We believe it offers an important opportunity to step back and examine the responsibilities we all have to make sure the web delivers on its promise", a spokesperson said. The contract aims to ensure that the Web continues to "serve humanity" and calls on governments, citizens and companies to agree to a number of principles and commitments. For example, one principle holds that companies "respect consumers' privacy and personal data", which is a very noble goal that I wholeheartedly support - but one that's extremely hard to quantify and thus extremely tricky from a legal point of view. "The contract seeks to get those wielding the most power online to commit to some boundaries in how they treat their users". With such support, the Contract may just turn out fine. Depending on where you live, you've likely seen your government make some dubious-if-not-outright (far-right?) authoritarian choices in regard to how the Internet works.

Personal data isn't as valuable to companies as one might expect, he added.

It's a delicate balancing act, but limiting some freedoms could end up creating a fairer, more open Web.

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