‘Web threatened by leaders like Facebook, Apple’

By : |November 23, 2010 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: He is called the “father of the web”. Because it was from his physical desktop that the world wide web went live, in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 1990. However, now Berners-Lee feels that the Web is being threatened in different ways, by governments to Web giants.

In a long essay written in Scientific American on the occasion of the Web turning 20, Berners-Lee: says that the enemies of the web don’t just include totalitarian governments. They include industry leaders like Apple and Facebook.

“The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web,” he said.

He alleged that wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. “Governments – totalitarian and democratic alike – are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights,” the article read.

“If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.”

He even said there is a chance Facebook could become so big that it could limit innovation and Apple’s iTunes traps people into a proprietary store.

“Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph,” the article said.

“The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service — but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site’s pages are on the Web, but your data are not. You can access a Web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site,” it added.

He said all these things breed monopolies, which the web was initially designed to resist.

The article also touches open web and net neutrality.

“Allowing any site to link to any other site is necessary but not sufficient for a robust Web. The basic Web technologies that individuals and companies need to develop powerful services must be available for free, with no royalties,” said Berners-Lee.

Criticizing, Google and Verizon for their suggestion that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone-based connections, he said, “Many people in rural areas from Utah to Uganda have access to the Internet only via mobile phones; exempting wireless from net neutrality would leave these users open to discrimination of service. It is also bizarre to imagine that my fundamental right to access the information source of my choice should apply when I am on my WiFi-connected computer at home but not when I use my cell phone.

Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt all owe a huge debt to Berners-Lee and everything he has fought to achieve over the past two decades. They know they would be nowhere without the web as he designed it — even as they pick apart at the very principles of openness that made the web the web, writes Kevin Kelleher, in a Reuters blog analysing the Berners-Lee article.

No Comments so fars

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.