Tim Berners-Lee has warned that the future of the internet could be at risk from sites such as Facebook that create data 'silos' that are not accessible from other websites.
In the article written for Scientific American, Berners-Lee — credited as the man who invented the world wide web — says that websites should be built on open standards and be available to all.
"The basic web technologies that individuals and companies need to develop powerful services must be available for free, with no royalties. Amazon.com, for example, grew into a... store for all kinds of goods because it had open, free access to the technical standards on which the web operates, " wrote Berners-Lee.
Berners-Lee contends that sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn amass vast amounts of information on their users but create "silos" of data that are inaccessible from other sites.
"The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service — but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site's pages are on the web, but your data is not...Connections among data exist only within a site. So the more you enter, the more you become locked in," he wrote.
He argues that the key to maintaining the independence of the web is decentralisation and universality.
"You do not have to get approval from any central authority to add a page or make a link. All you have to do is use three simple, standard protocols... The URI is the key to universality, [it] allows you to follow any link, regardless of the content it leads to or who publishes that content. Links turn the web's content into something of greater value: an interconnected information space."
At the beginning of October Facebook began rolling out a feature to users that allows individuals to download all of the information held by the social networking site in a ZIP file. Facebook said at the time that it was doing this to provide greater transparency of how third-party sites use customers' data.