The web's 25th birthday starts the campaign for the Web We Want

The web's 25th birthday starts the campaign for the Web We Want

Summary: The web's 25th birthday has been celebrated around the web, but Tim Berners-Lee has used it to start the Web We Want project to develop a Magna Carta or "bill of rights" to protect users' freedom of speech and freedom from surveillance

TOPICS: Web development

March 12 was not the day most people would have designated as the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web because 25 years ago they hadn't heard of it. In fact, it didn't actually exist. In 1989, it was simply the day when a CERN software engineer, Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim), "filed the proposal for what was to become the World Wide Web". As he notes on the official birthday website, "My boss dubbed it ‘vague but exciting’."

You can read it in all its glory at Information Management: A Proposal

He also used the 25th birthday to call for a "Magna Carta" or "bill of rights" to protect users. He told the BBC TV Breakfast show: "It's time for us to make a big communal decision. In front of us are two roads — which way are we going to go? Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control — more and more surveillance? Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the World Wide Web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?"

This was not an aside. The Web Foundation has launched a Web We Want website and campaign "calling on people around the world to stand up for their right to a free, open and truly global internet". This includes: "Drafting an Internet Users Bill of Rights for every country, proposing it to governments and kickstarting the change we need."

The Southbank Centre in London has already announced that it will run a "Web We Want" festival from September 2014 to May 2015 to explore "the creativity and collaboration the Web has afforded and asks the big questions of how we can guarantee our privacy and our freedom from all kinds of tyranny online". There will be similar events in other countries, which will be listed on a calendar on the website.

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee proves his identity to Redditors for his Ask Me Anything

In conjunction with the celebration, Berners-Lee has done a number of interviews, including An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web by Jemima Kiss at the Guardian and Tim Berners-Lee: 25 years on, the Web still needs work (Q&A) at our sister site, CNET. He also did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), where he revealed that The Information Mine was another possible name he considered. You might have spent years typing tim instead of www.

The Science Museum in London also hosted a small party to display the NeXT computer on which Berners-Lee developed the web, and ran the first web server. Also, Nominet, the UK's not-for-profit domain name company, launched a 25th birthday website on The Story of the Web, to which I contributed an editorially-independent report (PDF) covering the story so far.

The 25th birthday celebrations should feed the Web We Want campaign, which will be given a boost by the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the founding of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). A Symposium on the Web's Future and a celebratory dinner will be held at the Santa Clara Marriott in California on October 29, 2014.

The web's existence isn't threatened: it has two billion users and is looking to add another two billion. However, the mass surveillance revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden and the massive user-tracking systems run by commercial companies such as Google have certainly raised doubts about the freedoms web users have enjoyed for the past 25 years. People who want those freedoms to continue need to put some effort into preserving them.

More on the web

Topic: Web development

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Most of the surveillance and tracking

    began when commercial interests were allowed to utilize the
    world wide web. Prior to allowing "business transactions", we mainly utilized the www and internet for the exchange of information, data from experiments and literary works. With the introduction of commericial, business transactions we opened the door for tracking and surveillance by a number of entities, both governmental and corporate.
    It may be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse course...sort of like putting the genie back in the bottle.
    • true indeed

      If we were to eliminate all forms of tracking googles business model would collapse. They make 98% of their profit from tracking and ad targeting.
  • Great Idea

    The governments and corporations are slowly taking over the web. The governments see it a great resource for spying on people, corporations see it as a potential cash cow. And in many cases the two work together to achieve their own ends. If we leave things as they are, where will the web be in 10 years? Will every web site we go to be covered in ads flashing and blinking at us while those advertisers are collecting anything they can about you and then sharing it with the government? On top of that, fees for using the Internet are going up, up, up. So we will be paying ridiculous amounts to use an Internet that is primarily used to gather personal information about users, and as a vehicle to sell us everything and anything, while telling you where you can go, and what you can do. Yuck !
  • But is it a good or a bad thing?

    So we are a long way down the line now. But the big question is has the web done more harm than good or is a great thing? I am not sure...
    Gareth Engram
  • What web do we want?

    1. A web that's easy to surf.

    2. Websites that actually work well, with no broken links/functions.

    3. Webpage designs that don't obliterate your eyes. Sadly, the trend is to obliterate the eyes, much like the horror of the new Office 365, the horror of Youtube now, the horror of PC World/Tech Hive/MacWorld/PC Mag. Thankfully, ZDnet isn't following that horrible hospital glare black and white with too-huge pictures. Whew.

    4. A search engine that actually works well. Pity that Yahoo, Bing, Dogpile all have no or very limited date-search range. Pity that most websites' intra-site search engines, also don't work well; you have to go outside ZDnet to Google, to find a ZDnet article you remember reading, for example. Same problem in PC World, every other website I've seen or used, Youtube and Amazon, included.

    5. NO MORE MOVING ADS. That's why Ad Blocker is popular. We expect ads, expect tracking, expect surveillance, but what we don't want, is INTRUSIVENESS from the ads. They are horrible. So, we block them. So then the websites sponsoring those rude ads, don't make money. The key is to make tasteful, non-intrusive ads.

    6. We want to be SAFE. That can't happen. You can't expect the OS or the website developers to completely block every means of someone attacking you. They try. We have to take responsibility for protection at our end, too.

    7. We want to be able to be FREE. So no government should regulate the internet. Seriously, if as a world we can't agree on this, we are in deep trouble for the future. The internet should be free in the sense of unlimited access (not free in the sense of cost, it's not free to those maintaining it), and free in the sense of unregulated.

    Commerce, when healthy, staves off economic problems and more especially, war. People don't go to war with each other if they are freely trading. You can't put a price on that value. So we need the internet so trade can be free (as in unrestricted, not free as in no cost). That will keep us from trying to war in order to take each others' stuff.

    Of course, this last bit is something polities are continually trying to regulate. They shouldn't. That won't stop them from trying.
  • Web We Want will make us forget World Wide Web

    Web We Want will make us forget World Wide Web
    ~--~--~--~--~--~--~--~- ~--~--~--~--~--~--~--~
    The true aim from most people was accurately described in the "World Wide Web" name: freedom to communicate with all others world wide. If the officials promoting the new campaign were NOT trying to overshadow that real will of the People, they would PRESERVE the "World Wide Web" name, so they would have named that campaign with ANOTHER NAME, e.g. WOR (Web Of Rights).

    Unfortunately the TRUE advocates of the People and of their Liberty are definitely prevented from MASS access to medias; as a result, ALL the ones we can hear and watch publicly, ALL current members of ALL big orgs (incl GM, W3C, MS, KGB, Amazon, NSA, etc), despite most often posturing as defending Freedom, actually are its enemies.

    Versailles, Thu 13 Mar 2014 18:06:00 +0100
    Michel Merlin
    • Double plural

      "medias". The word "media" is the plural of "medium". Propagandists like to use "media" as singular to make the media look like a monolith (which they aren't), but it's grammatically incorrect, nevertheless.
      John L. Ries
      • Please don't divert from the VITAL issue: democracy, freedom, life danger

        Please don't divert from the VITAL issue: democracy, freedom, life danger
        1st, as most current people you visibly didn't really think about the true issue with English plurals of foreign names; the declensions, articles or other relations, are parts of the phrase, NOT of the word; hence when using a Latin word in an English phrase, these relations should be written in English, NOT in Latin (otherwise, the Latin word already containing the relation in its declension, wrongly repeating it with English articles or plurals just outlines the ignorance and pedantic attitude; e.g. "The software of the forums" could be replaced with "The software fororum", NOT with a stupid, wrong, illogical pedantry like "The software of the fora").

        2nd, in this case the same Latin word "medium" has produced in English (or French or else) 2 words, "medium" and "media", whose meanings are so different that you can't swap their 2 English plurals "mediums" and "medias" - whence my writing "medias".

        3rd, and the most important, quibbles about this ancillary issue is just diluting the real problem, which is defense of democracy, freedom of People, and from there, their culture, wealth, and even security ("Who trades a liberty for a security deserves none and will lose both", said Benjamin Franklin). I am afraid your wrong diversion is actually an efficient help to enemies of liberty and culture, more than any positive help to anyone.

        Versailles, Sat 15 Mar 2014 19:31:15 +0100
        Michel Merlin
  • I understand the need for...

    ads because SOMEONE has to make some money here and there to support the continuing operations that make the www work. But governments have absolutely no business spying on or tracking web users without probable cause and a warrant. The bulk collection of data by govt entities and the arbitrary govt demands made upon providers must stop.