Quoted: Tim Berners-Lee on the open Web

“One of the things I like about the computer that I use is that I can write a program on it or I can download a program on to it and run it. That’s kind of important to me, and that’s also kind of important to the whole future of the Internet… obviously a closed platform is a serious brake on innovation.”

Tim Berners-Lee includes the rise of mobile devices such as smartphones among the threats to the open Web. Of “closed-world” apps that run on mobile devices, the man widely credited as one of the inventors of the World Wide Web has complained that they cannot be indexed by search engines. Berners-Lee, who has criticized “silos” such as Facebook, also warned online users “wherever you put your data, you should make sure that you can get it back and get it back in a standard form.” He was speaking in an interview with the Guardian, which is running a series called “The battle for the Internet,” some of his concerns echoing those of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, whose interview with the Guardian we discussed earlier this week on GMSV. (See Sergey Brin talks Google and the thorny issue of walled gardens.) However, some saw Brin’s comments to be self-serving because they were critical of Google competitors such as Apple and Facebook. And Berners-Lee includes Google among the companies from which users should demand their data. By the way, Brin felt the need to clarify some of the statements he made in that interview. In a post on Google+ this morning, he marvels at what came out of Web 1.0, which he attributed to the openness of the Web: “Today, starting [Yahoo, eBay, PayPal or Amazon.com] would entail navigating a number of new tollbooths and gatekeepers.”


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  • sd

    It’s interesting to see how the monetization of technology, initially lauded as the way to get it into consumer’s hands ever more cheaply, so often comes back to bite us in the butt. We “let the market decide” on digital television and spent years delaying its implementation. We “let the market decide” on cellular phone technology by letting people choose their carrier (thereby limiting themselves to CDMA or GSM or TDMA, etc.) and now the barriers for consumers to change carriers is high and the carriers’ ability to lock in spectrum and customers costs mobile users far more than it costs in many other countries.

    One wonders if the Internet would be as usable as it is today and if organizations like Yahoo! and Google even would exist if it had not been for the ability to go anywhere you wanted to go once you got on the highway.


    “wherever you put your data, you should make sure that you can get it back and get it back in a standard form.”

    If I happen to be in a part of town where you can find all the clubs and strip joints I would not be surprised to find out that if I handed my wallet to some stranger for safekeeping that I would never see it again.

    Why are people so surprised that the Facebook gang is not going to do the honorable thing and let you (or anyone else) take control of the data you handed to them. It’s not in their interest and they have no obligation to you.

    Hardcore Facebook users remind me of the Indians who traded Manhattan for some beads, cloth, and trinkets.

  • Alex Burke

    Restrictive walled gardens would not be as attractive if advocates of internet “freedom” had not done such a “good job” that the internet is now pervasively criminalized, with up to 1/3 of all traffic driven by malicious scripts.