World Wide Web turns 30 years old

Erika Holt
March 13, 2019

"The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information", he wrote.

This year, outside his regular annual writing, the 63-year-old scientist made an onstage appearance at his old employer, CERN, to reiterate the idea of the "Contract for the Web", a framework to govern the use of the internet he first proposed in November 2018. Berners-Lee wasn't looking to transform modern life when he invented the World Wide Web; he had just gotten exhausted of having to switch computers whenever he needed to access information that wasn't on his main work computer.

The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

"The web is for everyone and collectively we hold the power to change it".

Berners-Lee reminisced about how he was really out to get disparate computer systems to talk to one another, and resolve the "burning frustration" over a "lack of interoperability" of documentation from disparate computing systems used at CERN in the late 1980s. Some trace the actual start of the web to 1990, when he released the first web browser.

"The web has become a public square, a library, a doctor's office, a shop, a school, a design studio, an office, a cinema, a bank, and so much more", Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter.

English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee 3rd left on the podium best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web attends an event at the CERN in Meyrin near Geneva Switzerland
How to save the Internet

Acknowledging the ways in which the web can become a breeding ground for malicious intent, Berners-Lee emphasized the need to "come together as a global web community", calling for companies, governments and individuals to do more. "It's our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible, and inclusive future".

Berners-Lee also cited state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech, and the spread of misinformation as just some of his concerns.

Berners-Lee also called for a response to the "unintended negative consequences" of the web, which he said had led to "the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse".

While, as Berners-Lee notes, no one person, corporation, or government is exclusively at fault for the web's current problems, resistance to what he and many others see as necessary systemic reforms has come from powerful companies and political actors.

According to him, the fight for the web is one of the most important causes of the present generation. "They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open".

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