What's next for the web as it turned 30?

Wednesday 20th March 2019 03:00 EDT

Internet, which was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, has turned 30 this week. Back in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee and other scientists at CERN, were unable to share the experiments and data stored in their computers. He proposed a system whereby information in one part of the globe was connected to every other part - easily searched, available to all and not controlled by anyone. That vision of universal connectivity became the world wide web.

According to Berners-Lee, connectivity for all is a human right and he is calling on governments to sign a global contract to protect people's rights and freedoms in the digital age. "We're talking about a contract for the web for the next phase ... companies and governments need to talk to each other but there's also a third constituent we've included - the consumer ... The web in the future should be more user-centric; users should have more control of their data," Berners-Lee said.

Asked about progress made in reigning in the power of big tech companies' use of personal data, Berners-Lee explained that "the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ... even though they're applied to Europe - have had a massive effect changing the international conversation. So, for example, as a result, since GDPR has come in the EU, four big companies in Silicon Valley - Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft (and others not only in Silicon Valley), they produced a thing called, The Data Transfer Project (DTP). It's a little-known project, but it is a commitment by those companies that you will be able to get your data, like your photographs or your contacts or whatever it is out of one of them and put it into the other one, or ... whatever else you want to do."

"The web works because it is actually independent of country, when you're reading the blog you don't know where the person who wrote it is at the moment, and it shouldn't matter. I think that's a really healthy thing for the world," he said. "The value of it as a global open platform is hugely greater than what it would be if it were broken into national or continental chunks. So every time we see government censorship, we have to gently persuade the agencies in the relevant governments that they can survive with people exposed to the other point of view ... The political debate should be grounded in a good open access to good knowledge about the state of the world."

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