Looking Back on the Internet

I recently found my summary of an article that appeared in Scientific American in 2010 in which Tim Berners-Lee looks back at the world wide web 20 years after it was invented. The issues seem as relevant today as then.

Universality– Because all content is based on the same protocols (hyper text markup language at its most basic level), any content can be linked to any other content. Consider this: Your middle school soccer team website is as available on the web as any giant online retailer. Universality is one feature of the web that allows for innovation; anyone can create a service on the web that can then be connected and reconnected by anyone. 

Open Standards– The web is built using protocols and rules that are available to anyone to use without the need to pay anyone or seek any one’s permission. Although you are free to create a model in which you use those standards and then charge for access to the model (membership driven web sites for example), you cannot sell the protocols. 

Net-neutrality– In recent years there has been a good deal of chatter about the rights of an Internet service provider (ISP) to make deals with content providers to provide preferential service. (Imagine a web where it was easy to get to Amazon, but hard to get to the web site of your favorite local bookseller.) This is contrary to the concepts of democracy, free-exchange of information, and science that created the web.

Intrusion– Internet protocols, combined with the amount of digital data available about each internet users creates the situation in which entities (including governmental, commercial, criminal, and others) have the capacity and motivation to intrude into the lived and histories of those who live (by choice or not) part of their lives online.