Web can be changed for better: Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989

Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. Peter Macdiarmid Getty Images

The technique that really made the web possible was the marriage of his idea with the existing Hypertext standard to form the HTTP protocol which is still in use today. He recalls his boss, Mike Sendell, saying the idea was "vague but exciting".

And so Berners-Lee and others advocated for CERN to permanently make the underlying code available on a royalty-free basis, and in April 1993, that vision became a reality. Twenty years later, the World Wide Web made this technology user-friendly and accessible to the public.

In 1992, Berners-Lee needed a photo to test out the World Wide Web's new image-hosting capabilities.

He 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". "What could go wrong?"

Sir Tim - he was knighted in 2004 for services to the global development of the internet - was greatly troubled by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the now-defunct company harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users.

This year's challenge is to create an impactful video around the question, "If you could have one special power that would make life online better, what would it be?".

Help could also be provided by the Web Foundation, founded by Sir Tim, which is now working with governments, companies and citizens to build a new Contract for the Web, which looks to establish concrete "norms, laws and standards" for the Web.

"They are all stepping back, suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections, realizing that this web thing that they thought was that cool is actually not necessarily serving humanity very well", he said. "And they have a responsibility to protect people's rights and freedoms online", he said. "We will have failed the web", he said. Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind.

Berners-Lee is now working with the Web Foundation on a "Contract For The Web" which, if adopted, would protect "governments, companies and citizens" from the dark side of the connected world.

The anniversary is also a nod to the innovative, collaborative and open-source mindset at the Geneva-based CERN, where physicists smash particles together to unlock secrets of science and the universe. "The web is not the web we wanted in every respect". What could happen if we give people privacy and we give people control of their data.

But 30 years later Sir Tim is growing increasingly concerned that his creation is being used in a bad way.

"I'm still not a gazillionaire", he says. Berners-Lee brought the site online from a lab in the Swiss Alps in 1991.

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