Thursday, 25 November 2010

Walled gardens on the web

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has published an article in Scientific American that calls for continued open standards and net neutrality to protect the web as it was originally intended. This marks the 20th anniversary of the WWW next month, when the first website and browser was tested by Berners-Lee, to use the structure of the Internet in a use-friendly manner to exchange information.

The Web has now evolved into a tool that is taken for granted. However, Berners-Lee is concerned that the future of the Web is being threatened in different ways. In particular, he identifies large social-networking sites, such as Facebook, that are walling off information posted by users from the rest of the Web. He also cites wireless Internet providers who are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. And Governments that are monitoring people’s online habits and endangering important human rights.

He says that if these trends continue unchecked, then the Web could be broken into fragmented islands and users would lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites they want. He also asks why should you care? The answer is that the Web was created for public use and remains a powerful public resource on which everyone now depends. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation.

It's an intriguing and thought-provoking article from the man who started it all, and who remains protective of the ideals of the Web, reminding users that after the first 20 years there remain challenges and threats to the future development of this medium.

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