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The Web Is 30. Here's What Its Inventor Thinks

Tim Berners-Lee has some suggestions on the 'dysfunction' of his 'troubled adolescent'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2019 10:44 AM CDT
English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, delivers a speech during an event at the CERN near Geneva on Tuesday.   (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool, Keystone via AP)

(Newser) – Thirty years ago this month, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal to his boss. At the top of that paper, his boss scribbled three words: "vague but exciting." That March 1989 blueprint was for the World Wide Web, and although Berners-Lee thinks his brainchild's first 15 years went fairly well, he fears the web has since grown into somewhat of a "troubled adolescent," per the BBC. In an open letter, Berners-Lee pinpoints three main areas of "dysfunction" within the system he helped create: nasty targeted behavior (including harassment and hacking); "perverse" incentives, including ad-based business models that he says encourage "clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation"; and the "unintended negative consequences" of the web, including the divisive conversations many of us witness online.

Late last year, Berners-Lee thought things were so bad that he even mentioned a move recently advocated by presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren: Break up tech giants like Facebook and Google due to "danger of concentration." "If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I would have said humanity is going to do a good job with this," he said then. "I was wrong." Not that we should give up hope, Berners-Lee says, per CNBC. He thinks we can start to turn things around, including by signing his "Contract for the Web," which puts the onus on governments and companies to make the internet available to all (while still allowing everyone their privacy), and on citizens to "build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity." (Read more Internet stories.)

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