World Wide Web Creator Hopes to Fix the Mess It's Become
The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, dubbed “Spring Break for Nerds,” is best known for its panels that discuss the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. A popular topic of discussion amongst Internet experts at this year’s SXSW conference is how technology should be used responsibly.
The discussion at SXSW ties into Tim Berners-Lee’s concern of the current state of the web. Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, is appalled by the Internet's changes over the past year and has plans to save it.
While working as a software engineer at CERN, the Swiss Particle Physics Laboratory, Berners-Lee noticed that scientists were having difficulty sharing information. There was different information on different computers hence having to log onto various computers to obtain the information. By exploiting an emerging technology called hypertext, Berners-Lee enabled computers to share information with one another. By 1990, he had written three fundamental technologies that are still the foundation of today’s web including HTML, URI, and HTTP.
Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web with the intent to better humanity through online discussion and collaboration. He spends time advocating for privacy rights, freedom and openness of the Web. Unfortunately, in recent years users have abused the Web’s purpose.
‘"Over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity," Berners-Lee said.
The trends worrying Berners-Lee are the few regulations in political advertising and fake news websites, as well as the constant gathering of online consumer’s personal data.
Berners-Lee had envisioned the Web to be a platform in which users could openly share information, access opportunities, and collaborate with others across multiple dimensions. With a series of CIA hacks and the rapid spread of fake news, Berners-Lee is left frustrated with the lack of privacy and quality of topics shared and discussed. In 2009, he founded the World Wide Web Foundation with the goal to build a fairer Internet. One of the foundation’s focuses is fighting for the right for free speech and online privacy online.
Berners-Lee is just one technologist concerned with the state of the Web. Several panels at SXSW brainstormed solutions to these issues. One idea discussed is to have a rating system for news stories based on the validity and quality of the content. While this is an encouraging start to fix the Web’s issues, technologists have a long ways to go before restoring the Web to what Berners-Lee originally had envisioned.