Berners-Lee: 80 percent of the world isn't on the web

Summary:After a brief welcome Mark Selby, vice president of industry collaborations for Nokia introduced Sir Tim Berners-Lee — inventor of the Web — for the Nokia World second day opening keynote.Berners-Lee wasted no time in getting down to business and touched on a number of key hot topics.

After a brief welcome Mark Selby, vice president of industry collaborations for Nokia introduced Sir Tim Berners-Lee — inventor of the Web — for the Nokia World second day opening keynote.

Berners-Lee wasted no time in getting down to business and touched on a number of key hot topics.

Referring to the growth of POI popularity in both web and mobile apps he began by talking about the increasing prevalence of location-aware devices but reminded assembled developers and executives that the corresponding web app needs to be equally location aware for the new services to be of use, urging developers to work to all current web standards in order to ensure future compatibility.

"It feels like we're going from a single bus system into a double bus system," said Berners-Lee, in reference to the way in which mobile and web apps interplay, with mobile data-orientated apps drawing further data points from their web based counterparts. He also highlighted the reusable nature of data, meaning that it can be used across a variety of sources.

However, he also said that location-aware services are just the tip of the iceberg. "Devices already know so much about you; where you are, which way you're facing — it can even which way up you are. But in the future they could know more than this, they could know medical information or your physical state — perhaps they could know whether your happy or not by measuring your heart rate."

Berners-Lee also extolled the virtues of the new HTML 5 standards, saying that it allows multimedia content to be included in a web page more easily. He also said that the ability to mix web technologies on the same webpage, such as using scalable vector graphics alongside HTML 5.

"It's a very, very powerful engine whether you're making [web content] for a smartphone or a big screen," said Berners-Lee. "But I could talk all day about what excites me, what I often get asked is, what concerns me?"

Among that list of concerns is privacy, specifically for services that require location updates — and in some cases, the public display of that information.

"How do we decide how many hoops we want a user to jump through? How do users know where the [location] data is going to end up? How do we educate users to realising that it's not just 'location data', it's exactly where you were, and when, " he added. "That's a problem that we're still working on."

According to Berners-Lee, one of the other key areas for concern is neutrality, "Companies and countries would want to be able to control certain data, depending on their own goals," he said referring to hypothetical situations where perhaps one mobile operator could affect the loading times of competitors' websites in a bid to retain visitor loyalty and attract traffic. "The moment you let that neutrality go, you lose the web as it is."

Sir Tim also said that he would like to see everyone — no matter how cheap the device or package — given a very low bandwidth data package "for very cheap, or free."

Despite many previously inaccessible areas now having mobile phone network coverage, still only twenty percent of the world uses the web, according to Berners-Lee. "What about the other eighty percent?" he questioned. "What about these people who have a signal but are not part of the web, who are not part of the information society?"

Speaking of his experience in visiting many different developing nations and the infrastructure required, he said, "I initially assumed you should get them water first, you should get them healthcare and then the luxury of getting the web. But it's not actually like that; the web can be pretty instrumental in getting them access to healthcare."

He stressed that the aim wouldn't be to impose western healthcare ideals, rather, to allow people to get access to information to healthcare, or other vital information, in their mother-tongue, meanwhile suggesting that the low-bandwidth data packages could be provided for free on the basis that once hooked-in users would upgrade to a more intensive package if required — and affordable — in the future.

"Not being a part of the information society is a really important thing," said Berners-Lee.

Topics: Mobility


With a psychology degree under his belt, Ben set off on a four-year sojourn as a professional online poker player, but as the draw of the gambling life began to wane his attentions turned to more wholesome employment.With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a s... Full Bio

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