World Wide Web turns 30 years old

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

The fraying World Wide Web needs to rediscover its strengths and grow into maturity, its designer Tim Berners-Lee said on Monday, marking the 30th anniversary of the collaborative software project his supervisor initially dubbed "vague but exciting".

Berners-Lee, the English software engineer who submitted his proposal for what would evolve into the World Wide Web 30 years ago Tuesday, said in a letter that his invention no longer serves its true objective to promote the free exchange of information around the globe.

Berners-Lee said the web had clearly created great opportunities for humanity to progress and made life easier for millions of people.

"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. "We will have failed the web", he said.

"Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it's understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good", he writes.

Driven by the same spark that led him to create the world wide web, Berners-Lee launched a platform called Solid in 2015, which he says will allow users to maintain full control of their data.

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"It seems we don't finish reeling from one privacy disaster before moving onto the next one", he added.

Berners-Lee identified three major "sources of dysfunction" affecting the web: deliberate malicious intent, system design and unintended negative consequences of benevolent design.

Now, 30 years later, Lee can't hold back the disappointment in seeing the world wide web being used for ill intentions.

Berners-Lee also cited state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech, and the spread of misinformation as just some of his concerns. Users too should do their best to advocate for a free, open and safe web and "Foster constructive healthy conversations online".

Earlier today in Geneva, Berners-Lee and other old-timers from that burgeoning tech era, urged governments, corporations, companies and citizens worldwide to come together and make the web more accessible to those who are not yet "online". Many experts peg the start of the internet to September 2, 1969, when a team of computer scientists at UCLA got two computers to send data to each other through a network for the first time.

The process, he argues, will require the cooperation of governments, companies and citizens to ensure the web drives equality, opportunity and creativity for everyone. And, just like most growing things, the technology infrastructure that powers nearly every communication and work tool we use has changed beyond even its very inventor's recognition.

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