Tim Berners Lee is not a happy man, he has been quoted in recent years as being “Disappointed, Devastated and Worried” – and he is talking about his invention of the World Wide Web, which he had designed as a universal communicator.
The World Wide Web was invented in the year 1989 by this London based researcher, which he referred to as the “mesh” and which later got changed to the “web” in the year 1990. Tim Berners Lee worked at the CERN, a research centre on Physics and was influenced by his parents who both worked with computers. He says that his invention was initially made to overcome his inability to share information with his colleagues’ computers and it was not a discovery by chance, it was a lot hard work that he had put into getting this “Web” together.
Berners Lee is disappointed with the current state of the Internet, the abuse of personal data and using it to spread hate are the two things he does not appreciate and he strongly feels that the dominance of the technology giants of Facebook and Google needs to be broken.
The World Wide Web in its first appearance in the public domain was more towards academic use by researchers and institutions, and Berners Lee understanding the need of this “web” that he had created to be free of any kind of central control or monetary transactions, gave it away free to the whole world. He wanted millions to use his product to their benefit and they did with complete empowerment. No one needed any permission to use the World Wide Web, it was all about personal control and power of the individuals. Thirty years thereafter, the inventor is devastated that this power he created has been collectively given away by the public by signing user agreements by a dozen and sharing their private space and moments on it. The control which people think are their own is now being handled by the tech giants who sit back and curve their lips in a smirky smile while whispering, “what you think is yours ain’t yours, you gave it to us, legally and still continue to do so…”
This is what worries him , he had always thought of the World Wide Web that he created as a beautiful place not the dark, mad, mad and mad world filled with Internet trolls and other nasty people. His “web” was one without cultural boundaries, without hate and irrationality. unlike the social media hate wars that exist today, the fake news brigands, unethical artificial intelligence systems and the total madness that is churned out each moment on the World Wide Web.
Still Tim Berners Lee is optimistic and he says, “I am still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face…” He says that though he knows the system is failing but everything is not lost since this muck, this madness is man made and if we see that it is working against humanity then it needs to be changed. And change is what he is seeking through a world wide campaign which was launched in November 2018 to save the web and to do away with the harmful effects of the same on the Society. Named as “Contract for the Web” Berners Lee is urging the governments and Internet companies along with the users to follow a set of principles to protect user privacy and to curb the spread of misinformation. The contract should be published by May 2019 if the inventor of the World Wide Web and his foundation can garner enough support for the same.
Utopian sounds this change but as always, Berners Lee is hopeful as he says, “ The genie seems to have come out of the bottle, but the Internet has surprised us many times. Things change.”
Let’s hope it does…..