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Fast Facts About the World Wide Web on Its 30th Birthday

13 March 2019

"Today, half of the world is online".

While, as Berners-Lee notes, no one person, corporation, or government is exclusively at fault for the web's current problems, resistance to what he and many others see as necessary systemic reforms has come from powerful companies and political actors.

To Berners-Lee, the web is a "mirror of humanity" where "you will see good and bad".

The CERN anniversary event celebrated how the creation of the World Wide Web launched a technological revolution that improved life in many ways. The inventor also remains optimistic about its long term prospects saying, "If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us".

Some tough regulation may be necessary in some places, in others not, Berners-Lee said. 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.

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"[But] it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit", he added. His foundation is working with web companies and governments on a Contract for the Web, which will "establish clear norms, laws and standards that underpin the web".

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. Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said he came up with the idea of the World Wide Web thanks to a "random program" ordered by his old boss at CERN, Mike Sendall.

Under the contract, governments should make sure everyone can connect to the internet, keep it available and respect privacy. In addition, citizens should seek to "build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity".

Ultimately, his "Contract" proposal is not about "quick fixes", but a process for shifting people's relationship with the online world, he said.

The "hypertext thing" eventually became the "http" protocol that we'd use in front of web addresses.

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Fast Facts About the World Wide Web on Its 30th Birthday