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World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants us to fix the web’s bugs

Too much of the web and people’s personal data is under the control of a handful of mega-corporations. Is there a better way?

In an open letter on the World Wide Web Foundation website, the father of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, urged the tech industry and users to fix the internet’s bugs.

The web, which was created by Tim Berners-Lee on 12 March 1989, is facing major challenges, its inventor warned.

Berners-Lee initially proposed a way to share documents between the research communities at CERN. From this proposal, which was described as “vague but interesting”, he developed the HTTP and HTML protocols.

Today, on its 29th birthday, he shared his concerns that the web is influenced by a few very large internet companies and political agenda.

“The threats to the web today are real and many, including those that I described in my last letter – from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data,” Berners-Lee said in his letter.

Discussing the risks of fake news and hacking, he wrote: “The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale. In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data.

Berners-Lee believes the web needs to be more open, rather than users’ experiences being defined by the web giants. He argued that just like a software product, the web itself can be refined, and the “bugs” ironed out.  

“While the problems facing the web are complex and large, I think we should see them as bugs: problems with existing code and software systems that have been created by people – and can be fixed by people”
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web

“While the problems facing the web are complex and large, I think we should see them as bugs: problems with existing code and software systems that have been created by people – and can be fixed by people. Create a new set of incentives and changes in the code will follow,” he wrote.

Berners-Lee called on the world of web users to design a web that creates a constructive and supportive environment.

“Two myths currently limit our collective imagination: the myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points, we need to be a little more creative,” Berners-Lee wrote.

“Today, I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web. I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions.”

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