It makes sense to be connected in both the physical world and the virtual world, since it will complement each other, feels the inventor of World Wide Web
A graduate of Oxford University, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, in 1989. He wrote the first Web client and server in 1990. His specifications of URLs, HTTP and HTML were refined as Web technology spread.
He is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a Web standards organization founded in 1994, which develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web, to its full potential.
He is a founding Director of the Web Science Trust (WST) launched in 2009 to promote research and education in Web Science, the multidisciplinary study of humanity connected by technology.
Tim Berners-Lee is also a director of the World Wide Web Foundation, launched in 2009 to fund and coordinate efforts to further the potential of the Web to benefit humanity.
Tim Berners-Lee, who is in India to attend the 20th International World Wide Web Conference at Hyderabad, met with CIOL to share his views and thoughts on social media, censorship and the Internet in general. Excerpts:
Where do people live in 2020? Physically or virtually?
In both places. In 2020, people will have to be connected on the Web and also physical environment. It makes sense to be connected in both the places since it will complement each other.
Did you ever think of Internet as one of the main tools for social media? How social media will change in next ten years?
My initial goal was to create a collaborative tool for those working together, like a sandbox to share the ideas and work together. I thought that different communities could work on single platform using hypertext as the medium.
Any form of monopoly is a threat
Why have you warned that Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites represent "one of several threats" to the future of the world wide Web?
(These sites have begun to "chip away" at its founding principles, Berners-Lee wrote in a scientific American journal essay published in November 2010. Berners-Lee also said there was a worry that a social networking site could become "so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation.)
Yes. Any form of monopoly is a threat. When you have a monopoly on the particular system, it could limit innovation. That is one of the concerns I feel. There is a danger if innovation happens only in one particular layer. This trend will let very few companies to cash on Innovation. At the end of the day, innovations are different from each other; monopoly can restrict innovations from smaller companies.
People look at Wikileaks as a newspaper
Share your views on Internet as a medium of freedom of speech. Especially with what we have seen recently on two extremes: China's attempts to muffle public voice and on the other hand all the feathers that Julian Assange has been ruffling with Wikileaks. Where does freedom become valid? Or should there be indeed a watchman around?
Generally, I am against censorship. The society should figure out when we should keep unanimous and we don't. Certainly in the case of Wikileaks most people agree that people sell government information when it is clearly available. So people look at Wikileaks as a new newspaper. The role Wikileaks played is that it operated like a newspaper – information is sourced out, it is up to the people to believe it and relate to it.
I differ on the idea of releasing information about organizations bit by bit. I do not appreciate media's role in spying on everything. Media should not sensationalize. Media should discuss the information that is public and then disseminate.
Why Internet has not reached everyone?
Isn't it amazing that Web has reached 20-25 per cent of people on the planet? When you give that number, people say Wow! That it has reached 20 per cent of the planet and some say still it has to reach 80 per cent of the people. Some don't have access to Web browser; if they have the Web browser, it would not be in their language.
In India, that could be one of the reasons. Even if Web browser is in their language, some don't understand how to get involved in it. They don't realize that they can blog. This is the situation in Africa too. So this is a complicated question, it is relevant for India to find out what the answer is.
And about the needs of the community... The Web Foundation is involved in exploring the prospects of Web in coming days. We should work on one thing, which can accelerate the Web access amongst people. That is a critical question; even Web Foundation is working on that.