Web Freedom on the 25th Anniversary of the Internet
It was 25 years ago this year that Tim Burners-Lee wrote a proposal that changed the world. He sent it to CERN, where he was employed, and proposed to link the world together via hypertext.
Initially, Berners-Lee called his system Mesh. Over time, however, he decided to call it the World Wide Web and, from there, what we know today as the Internet was, essentially, born.
In a CNN article, Berners-Lee described his creation as being in its adolescence. The metaphor involves the way that people on the web are, at this point, asserting their independence and demanding their freedom. Berners-Lee, however, also acknowledges that, despite the fact that people are trying to assert their freedom, it is very much under threat.
The threats that he identifies should be ones that everyone who uses the Internet are familiar with: spying by governments and censorship.
Berners-Lee praised Edward Snowden in the article, the man who leaked information that revealed that the US government had not only been spying on Internet use and users, but had lied about it repeatedly and significantly. He called for more respect for whistleblowers, who risk their own freedom to point out when someone else’s is being infringed upon.
In fact, Berners-Lee is working on a concept to develop a Bill of Rights for Internet users, designed to combat government and private interference with Internet usage. He’s the founder of the World Wide Web Consortium, the organization that oversees the standards that govern the building of web pages from a technological angle. He also is part of the Web Foundation, which addresses the issues related to how the web is used and, unfortunately, has to spend a great deal of time fighting against unethical uses and restrictions on the web.
Berners-Lee is optimistic about how the web could develop in coming years. He believes that, as people begin to understand what the data about them that exists on the web could really be used for, they could start to seize power over it for themselves. He also foresees a smarter version of the web developing over time, which is based more around the needs of users.
While Berners-Lee has a positive view of the future, the spying and censorship issues are very real and still provide significant barriers to people fully enjoying what the web has to offer and how it could be better used.