Long live the Web

Great article by Tim Berners-Lee about Web openness, standards and neutrality.
After 20 years from its creation the Web’s father writes its point of view of the situation, now that the Internet and the Web are in our everyday life.
Today we consider the Web a very powerful tool but it is also being threatened in different ways: social-networking sites are hiding information posted by their users from the rest of the Web; Internet providers slow traffic to sites which they have no deals with; governments are monitoring people’s online habits for various purposes.
Berners-Lee states that we have to think about some basic principles and properties we want the Web to have and not have.
First of all if we want the Web to be useful we need universality: when making a link you can link to anything. People must be able to put anything on the Web regardless of the software and hardware used. The URI, or URL, is the key to universality because it allows you to follow any link.
Another important design feature is decentralization which means that no one needs to get approval from any authority to add a page or make a link.
Threats to the Web’s universality have already arisen: cable television companies with Internet connectivity limit their users to download only inside the company’s site; social-networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn and others) present many problems like providing information within their sites: your data is walled off from the others, it’s isolated.
Open standards are another key principle on which Internet protocols are based and run many services, Web included. When requesting an URI addressed with the protocol “http:” any Web browser knows what to do but closed worlds like iTunes system uses the proprietary protocol “itunes:” for its links: you must use Apple’s software to follow these URIs.
Another important principle is the separation of layers: keep the Web separate from the Internet. The Web is just one application that runs on the Internet which is a huge network that transmits packets of information among millions of computers and devices according to the open standard mentioned before.
But what happens if the Internet is not free from interference? Today many governments force the ISPs to apply filters and block access to certain sites for many different reasons.
Net neutrality is very important and the ISPs should do their best to maintain the connection quality you have paid for without any discrimination, commercial or of other kind.
This neutrality unfortunately is not applied to mobile phone connections.
Other threats discussed in the article deals with snooping (peeking inside the packets to determine the URIs the ISP customers are browsing), free speech and network rights (in particular the Hadopi French law and the Google vs China government affair).
There is also a mention to free software projects that allow anyone to create their own social network like GnuSocial and Diaspora; Status.net project runs sites like identi.ca that allow you to operate your own Twitter-like network without the Twitter centralization.
So in the end we all should care to stop these trends since we could lose pieces of our freedom and, most importantly, because the Web is ours.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 at 7:43 PM and is filed under internet.

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