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Tim Berners Lee: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality



5:09 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Tim Berners Lee: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality [scientificamerican.com]
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend.


10:30 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

All nice but it is only only going to get worse. The web as he created it is going to change and probably not the way he wants it.

Look at it like this the trucking industry controls 80-90% of all goods moved in just about every country in the world. The drivers are paid pennies per mile they have been hollering we need to unite and slow the flow of goods so we can make a better living for years. They are treated like dirt by companies and drivers on the road. Problem is they never will or can unite to really make a difference. Same here won't ever happen and the net continue to be more
controlled. Heck just look at our lives the last 30 years and that is were the net is heading.

A little quote from a pretty smart person: Darwin believed that all humans have inherited the ability to express emotions ... Most of these are inconsistent and often in opposition to each other..

[edited by: bwnbwn at 10:38 pm (utc) on Nov 23, 2010]


10:35 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

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thank you for pulling that up to the front page. i think berners-lee's wake-up call is an extremely noteworthy reminder of the pressing internet issues we have to deal with and what it's all about just at the right time.


11:22 pm on Nov 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Excellent article, I've been wondering for a while when someone like TB-L would pipe up about what is actually happening.


12:32 am on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have a great deal of respect for the guy for creating the WWW, and I'm all for neutrality too but his baby is gonna grow up and evolve and you can't change business - it's a bit like the first person to invent a boat saying how all future trade should work.

(Excuse the poor analogy)


12:48 am on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web

No they aren't. If you're a regular user you can see it all just fine. They are walling it off from would be wholesale scrapers which is what search engines have become thanks to their monetizing efforts of all available data. Just TRY and get your website out of a search engines monetized translate feature for example, can't be done even though no permission was ever asked for or given.

Protecting copyright theft by massive corporations doesn't mean the entire net isn't becoming less neutral, place the blame where it belongs.

Full disclosure: I am guilty of walling off search engines by using the noarchive meta tag. I don't want anything more than a snippet or description from my pages displayed under any domain name but my own. I have to, search got greedy.


1:51 am on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to hear what Tim thinks about Wikipedia's theft of information.

For example, I could spend years researching a topic to post online but as soon as someone paraphrases my research on Wikipedia, then Wikipedia will dominate the search engine for that topic. I don't see what's so neutral about Wikipedia having a monopoly over all information they don't research themselves.

Just like YouTube, Wikipedia is able to hide behind the "our users upload data so we aren't liable for anything" shield.


10:20 am on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Isn't OpenGraph a recognition by Facebook that the web is bigger than its own walled garden and that it needs to open up channels so that data outside FB can show up inside and vice versa?

the trucking industry controls 80-90% of all goods moved in just about every country in the world.

Ummm... Railways? I appreciate the analogy you're trying to make, but this doesn't really work for me. The USA is a pretty atypical member of the international community in all sorts of spheres and not least in domestic transport infrastructure. I submit that a great deal of haulage in very many countries is executed by rail, not by road.


1:14 pm on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

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When facebook let outsiders get their users info, they got hammered in the press everywhere

Tis ironic that now that they're trying to protect users info, they now getting critised by another lot :)

yer just can't win

Perhaps facebook is entitled to do what the Majority of its users want , perhaps?


3:44 pm on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

ronin won't get into that discussion your correct on the rail, ships etc. but most of the rail is container goods that are then picked up and delivered by trucks. Ships are a high percentage of containers that are delivered by trucks. Not a point of this disucssion but I would be happy to send ya information to back what I said.

My point was we all would love to see the net as Tim vision but the real world will or can't support this.


5:17 pm on Nov 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think what TBL is basically reiterating is the time-honoured idea that "information wants to be free" [as in speech, not beer], no?

Surely, the OpenGraph is FB's first acknowledgement of this same idea and an attempt to avoid losing relevance over time in the same way that the AOL walled garden did.

If TBL is concerned it's because the web looks like it is starting to evolve towards closed networks. In fact, I very much doubt it is. It only looks that way because, so far, iTunes & FB have few credible competitors who are challenging their model.

Diaspora (no affiliation) will be one to watch.


1:31 am on Nov 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is all very relevant to how humanity is evolving.

I run a classifieds site and it has been receiving what I think are scam ads and they seem to be mostly coming from people in Cameroon.

I have been figuring out what measures I can take to block Cameroon from accessing the website.

And now that I have figured out what code I can add to the .htaccess file, I'm considering alternative ways to address the issue more straight-on and well-roundedly, more holistically, and well, lovingly.

How can the soul, whatever that is, of earth (we are part of earth and we are earth) ever be healed and made Whole if our activities and intentions are continually fractionated and often seemingly at odds with each other?

Crazy simplistic spiritual non-sense, perhaps, but this is wHere my inquiry and self observation, self refinement, and self awakening is in this Moment.


4:50 pm on Nov 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is all a continuation of the discussion of the topic about the Web's future started by Wired in their "The Web is Dead, Long Live the Internet" article (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/ff_webrip/all/1). Even the titles are echoes of each other, except that Berners Lee sticks to his guns by calling it the "Long live the Web ...".

I think that in their traditional sensationalist style (after all it's magazine and it needs to sell), Wired wen't over the top by declaring the Web dead. It is definitely not (and the upcoming shopping season will prove that).

However, both articles do make a valid point, about the creation of walled gardens being back in style because of FB, Apple and Internet-Apps in general.

Where Wired is wrong though is in saying that it is a normal business evolution to create walled gardens, because this is where profit is created.

Wired goes further on to say that, like electricity or telecom services, businesses will eventually centralize and amalgamate to create a couple of giant champions which will be the only ones to rule and turn a profit.

On the 1st point, Wired is wrong because there are tons of Web-based companies churning huge profits, and whose platforms are not walled-gardens (even though they all preciously guard the data they collect about us, but this is data their record and not that you intentionally give, I think this distinction is key). These companies are Google, Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, Craigslist, etc... Walled gardens make money too (ex Apple), but the previous mentioned examples use open-standards and are hugely successfulness businesses. Facebook on the other hand has yet to prove that they make any serious amount of cash, by opening their books.

On the 2nd point, Wired is also wrong because the open standard aspect of the Web and the underlying Internet makes it easy for smaller businesses to be created, generate profit and maybe even eventually grow. The beast case of this is ecommerce. Get your hand on a product (buy it or even better, make it) setup a site ans start selling. Maybe one day you'll become an Amazon, but if you don't, you can still run a successful small or medium business, ones that don't exist in the electricity or telecom distribution businesses.

But both Wired and Berners Lee are correct in saying that there are strong forces that try to undermine the openness of the Web.

As both a webmaster and a consumer, I have tried to make a little manifesto on how to best prevent this. Here we go:

As a consumer:
* Vote with your wallet, don't buy a product just to fit in (aka Apple).
* Use open source / standard tools (aka Firefox, Chrome (at least it's open source))
* Test your internet connection at home (using [broadband.mpi-sws.org...] If it is slowed down, call your ISP and complain until it isn't anymore.
* If your ISP supports it, setup an encrypted tunnel.
* Make your browsers always start in private mode by default (for Firefox use this: "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -private in the shortcut, for Chrome use C:\Users\eeugnic\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --incognito
* Don't share your personal private data with Google, Facebook, nor any other platform. Share the strict minimum (even your real name should be kept private when you can).

As a webmaster:
* Use HTML5. Always.
* Don't make Apps (apps are a fad, that should die). Make your HTML5 site work with mobiles. Test for your site on mobiles and optimize your HTML5 so that an App is not needed.
* Encourage competition amongst search engines by not implicitly favorings a single SE. To do this, you can simply install the Analytics tools of M$, Y and G at the same time, making sure they all get access to your data.
* Optimize for all search engines, read on all search engines.
* Don't put only a FB Like button with a Tweet button on your pages: put as many sharing and social tools as you can. Don't favor only one.
* Don't spend your productive time on your FB page or Tweeter: they should be secondary. Spend your time on your web property.

I don't always follow these rules, nor should you. But we should all try to follow a bit, and this will make a tremendous difference.

And there are probably tons of other simple things we can do to improve openness and privacy and stimulate economic growth. Because a closed Web will be the economic death of service-based economies like ours. Where was the growth last 20 years? In technology, much related to the Web and Internet. Where was the fall? In manufacturing. Keep that in mind when closing-off the Web.

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