The father of the web speaks to EIF members about the challenges of the internet

01 December 2009 Author: EIFonline

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was the honorary guest at the European Internet Foundation on December 1 2009. His speech and discussion with EIF members and friends took place over a dinner in the Solvay Library in Brussels. The event was organised in cooperation with STOA Annual Lecture.

Sir Berners-Lee talked about the future of the World Wide Web and emphasized that it is important to keep one web with a single URL system (although he did not exclude the possibility of (for instance) http2:// in that respect.

He also referred to the paradigm of a new world driven by mass collaboration (as also put forward in the EIF publication ‘The Digital World in 2025’). He argued that we have no models for this new economy of mass collaboration because today, the economy has become the web; and if we do not understand the web, then we do not understand the economy. 

 From left to right: Malcolm Harbour, MEP; Catherine Trautmann, MEP; Cristina Monti, EIF Director; Sir Tim Berners-Lee; Pilar del Castillo, MEP and EIF Chair; James Elles, MEP and EIF Chair; Maria Rosa Gibellini, EIF Assistant.

The web has, however, become much more than its technology; this is studied by what is called 'web science'. Web science tries to look at both the technical and the social pieces of how the enormous complexity of the web is changing our world. Very few people imagined that Wikipedia would come into existence. Sir Tim Berners-Lee argued that although this is made possible by the http:// technology, it is the social part, the interaction between two or more people that makes all these new ideas become possible. The best way to look forward is to realize that the web is made up of people, and you have to understand the motives of the people.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee ended with the bigger picture of the web.  How do we make the web multilingual? How do we make people understand it is a two-way street (that blogs are not only for reading but also for writing); is the coming year the time to show a big moment of leadership to change the web? All were put forward as questions. His advice was to think about the answers in the way you want the world to be in 2025, and then think of Europe’s role in getting it there.



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