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TED2014

Tim Berners-Lee: A Magna Carta for the web

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web 25 years ago. So it’s worth a listen when he warns us: There’s a battle ahead. Eroding net neutrality, filter bubbles and centralizing corporate control all threaten the web’s wide-open spaces. It’s up to users to fight for the right to access and openness. The question is, What kind of Internet do we want?

- Inventor
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He leads the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), overseeing the Web's standards and development. Full bio

TED is 30.
00:12
The world wide web is celebrating this month
00:14
its 25th anniversary.
00:17
So I've got a question for you.
00:19
Let's talk about the journey, mainly about the future.
00:22
Let's talk about the state.
00:26
Let's talk about what sort of a web we want.
00:28
So 25 years ago, then, I was working at CERN.
00:30
I got permission in the end after about a year
00:34
to basically do it as a side project.
00:36
I wrote the code.
00:39
I was I suppose the first user.
00:40
There was a lot of concern
00:43
that people didn't want to pick it up
00:45
because it would be too complicated.
00:47
A lot of persuasion, a lot of wonderful
00:49
collaboration with other people,
00:50
and bit by bit, it worked.
00:52
It took off. It was pretty cool.
00:54
And in fact, a few years later in 2000,
00:56
five percent of the world population
00:59
were using the world wide web.
01:03
In 2007, seven years later, 17 percent.
01:05
In 2008, we formed the World Wide Web Foundation
01:08
partly to look at that
01:11
and worry about that figure.
01:13
And now here we are in 2014,
01:16
and 40 percent of the world
01:18
are using the world wide web, and counting.
01:20
Obviously it's increasing.
01:24
I want you to think about both sides of that.
01:26
Okay, obviously to anybody here at TED,
01:29
the first question you ask is, what can we do
01:32
to get the other 60 percent on board
01:35
as quickly as possible?
01:37
Lots of important things. Obviously
it's going to be around mobile.
01:38
But also, I want you to think about the 40 percent,
01:40
because if you're sitting there yourself
01:42
sort of with a web-enabled life,
01:44
you don't remember things anymore,
01:47
you just look them up,
01:48
then you may feel that it's been a success
01:50
and we can all sit back.
01:54
But in fact, yeah, it's been a success,
01:56
there's lots of things, Khan Academy
01:59
for crying out loud, there's Wikipedia,
02:01
there's a huge number of free e-books
02:03
that you can read online,
02:05
lots of wonderful things for education,
02:06
things in many areas.
02:08
Online commerce has in some cases
02:10
completely turned upside down the
way commerce works altogether,
02:12
made types of commerce available
02:15
which weren't available at all before.
02:17
Commerce has been almost universally affected.
02:19
Government, not universally affected,
02:22
but very affected, and on a good day,
02:24
lots of open data, lots of e-government,
02:27
so lots of things which are visible
02:30
happening on the web.
02:32
Also, lots of things which are less visible.
02:34
The healthcare, late at night when they're worried
02:36
about what sort of cancer
02:38
somebody they care about might have,
02:40
when they just talk across the Internet to somebody
02:42
who they care about very much in another country.
02:47
Those sorts of things are not, they're not out there,
02:52
and in fact they've acquired
a certain amount of privacy.
02:56
So we cannot assume that part of the web,
02:59
part of the deal with the web,
03:02
is when I use the web,
03:03
it's just a transparent, neutral medium.
03:05
I can talk to you over it without worrying
03:08
about what we in fact now know is happening,
03:10
without worrying about the fact
03:13
that not only will surveillance be happening
03:16
but it'll be done by people who may abuse the data.
03:18
So in fact, something we realized,
03:21
we can't just use the web,
03:22
we have to worry about
03:23
what the underlying infrastructure of the whole thing,
03:25
is it in fact of a quality that we need?
03:29
We revel in the fact that we
have this wonderful free speech.
03:33
We can tweet, and oh, lots and lots of people
03:38
can see our tweets, except when they can't,
03:41
except when actually Twitter
is blocked from their country,
03:44
or in some way the way we try to express ourselves
03:47
has put some information
about the state of ourselves,
03:50
the state of the country we live in,
03:53
which isn't available to anybody else.
03:55
So we must protest and make sure
03:57
that censorship is cut down,
04:00
that the web is opened up
04:02
where there is censorship.
04:04
We love the fact that the web is open.
04:06
It allows us to talk. Anybody can talk to anybody.
04:09
It doesn't matter who we are.
04:11
And then we join these big
04:13
social networking companies
04:14
which are in fact effectively built as silos,
04:17
so that it's much easier to talk to somebody
04:20
in the same social network
04:22
than it is to talk to somebody in a different one,
04:24
so in fact we're sometimes limiting ourselves.
04:26
And we also have, if you've read
the book about the filter bubble,
04:31
the filter bubble phenomenon is that
04:34
we love to use machines
04:36
which help us find stuff we like.
04:37
So we love it when we're bathed in
04:40
what things we like to click on,
04:42
and so the machine automatically feeds us
04:44
the stuff that we like and we end up
04:46
with this rose-colored spectacles view of the world
04:47
called a filter bubble.
04:52
So here are some of the things which maybe
04:54
threaten the social web we have.
04:56
What sort of web do you want?
04:59
I want one which is not
fragmented into lots of pieces,
05:01
as some countries have been suggesting
05:04
they should do in reaction to recent surveillance.
05:06
I want a web which has got, for example,
05:09
is a really good basis for democracy.
05:13
I want a web where I can use healthcare
05:16
with privacy and where there's a lot
05:21
of health data, clinical data is available
05:22
to scientists to do research.
05:25
I want a web where the other 60 percent
05:27
get on board as fast as possible.
05:30
I want a web which is such
a powerful basis for innovation
05:33
that when something nasty happens,
05:37
some disaster strikes, that we can respond
05:39
by building stuff to respond to it very quickly.
05:41
So this is just some of the things that I want,
05:45
from a big list, obviously it's longer.
05:48
You have your list.
05:50
I want us to use this 25th anniversary
05:51
to think about what sort of a web we want.
05:54
You can go to webat25.org
05:57
and find some links.
05:59
There are lots of sites where people
06:00
have started to put together a Magna Carta,
06:01
a bill of rights for the web.
06:04
How about we do that?
06:05
How about we decide, these are, in a way,
06:07
becoming fundamental rights, the right
to communicate with whom I want.
06:11
What would be on your list for that Magna Carta?
06:15
Let's crowdsource a Magna Carta
06:17
for the web.
06:20
Let's do that this year.
06:22
Let's use the energy from the 25th anniversary
06:24
to crowdsource a Magna Carta
06:27
to the web. (Applause)
06:30
Thank you. And do me a favor, will you?
06:31
Fight for it for me. Okay? Thanks.
06:36
(Applause)
06:38

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About the speaker:

Tim Berners-Lee - Inventor
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He leads the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), overseeing the Web's standards and development.

Why you should listen

In the 1980s, scientists at CERN were asking themselves how massive, complex, collaborative projects -- like the fledgling LHC -- could be orchestrated and tracked. Tim Berners-Lee, then a contractor, answered by inventing the World Wide Web. This global system of hypertext documents, linked through the Internet, brought about a massive cultural shift ushered in by the new tech and content it made possible: AOL, eBay, Wikipedia, TED.com...

Berners-Lee is now director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which maintains standards for the Web and continues to refine its design. Recently he has envisioned a "Semantic Web" -- an evolved version of the same system that recognizes the meaning of the information it carries. He's the 3Com Founders Professor of Engineering in the School of Engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) at the MIT, where he also heads the Decentralized Information Group (DIG). He is also a Professor in the Electronics and Computer Science Department at the University of Southampton, UK.

More profile about the speaker
Tim Berners-Lee | Speaker | TED.com