Tim Berners-Lee: A Magna Carta for the web
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web 25 years ago. So it’s worth a listen when he warns us: There’s a battle ahead. Eroding net neutrality, filter bubbles and centralizating corporate control all threaten the web’s wide-open spaces. It’s up to users to fight for the right to access and openness. The question is, What kind of Internet do we want?
TED is 30. The world wide web is celebrating this month its 25th anniversary. So I've got a question for you. Let's talk about the journey, mainly about the future. Let's talk about the state. Let's talk about what sort of a web we want.
So 25 years ago, then, I was working at CERN. I got permission in the end after about a year to basically do it as a side project. I wrote the code. I was I suppose the first user. There was a lot of concern that people didn't want to pick it up because it would be too complicated. A lot of persuasion, a lot of wonderful collaboration with other people, and bit by bit, it worked. It took off. It was pretty cool. And in fact, a few years later in 2000, five percent of the world population were using the world wide web. In 2007, seven years later, 17 percent. In 2008, we formed the World Wide Web Foundation partly to look at that and worry about that figure. And now here we are in 2014, and 40 percent of the world are using the world wide web, and counting. Obviously it's increasing.
I want you to think about both sides of that. Okay, obviously to anybody here at TED, the first question you ask is, what can we do to get the other 60 percent on board as quickly as possible? Lots of important things. Obviously it's going to be around mobile. But also, I want you to think about the 40 percent, because if you're sitting there yourself sort of with a web-enabled life, you don't remember things anymore, you just look them up, then you may feel that it's been a success and we can all sit back. But in fact, yeah, it's been a success, there's lots of things, Khan Academy for crying out loud, there's Wikipedia, there's a huge number of free e-books that you can read online, lots of wonderful things for education, things in many areas. Online commerce has in some cases completely turned upside down the way commerce works altogether, made types of commerce available which weren't available at all before. Commerce has been almost universally affected. Government, not universally affected, but very affected, and on a good day, lots of open data, lots of e-government, so lots of things which are visible happening on the web.
Also, lots of things which are less visible. The healthcare, late at night when they're worried about what sort of cancer somebody they care about might have, when they just talk across the Internet to somebody who they care about very much in another country. Those sorts of things are not, they're not out there, and in fact they've acquired a certain amount of privacy. So we cannot assume that part of the web, part of the deal with the web, is when I use the web, it's just a transparent, neutral medium. I can talk to you over it without worrying about what we in fact now know is happening, without worrying about the fact that not only will surveillance be happening but it'll be done by people who may abuse the data. So in fact, something we realized, we can't just use the web, we have to worry about what the underlying infrastructure of the whole thing, is it in fact of a quality that we need? We revel in the fact that we have this wonderful free speech. We can tweet, and oh, lots and lots of people can see our tweets, except when they can't, except when actually Twitter is blocked from their country, or in some way the way we try to express ourselves has put some information about the state of ourselves, the state of the country we live in, which isn't available to anybody else. So we must protest and make sure that censorship is cut down, that the web is opened up where there is censorship.
We love the fact that the web is open. It allows us to talk. Anybody can talk to anybody. It doesn't matter who we are. And then we join these big social networking companies which are in fact effectively built as silos, so that it's much easier to talk to somebody in the same social network than it is to talk to somebody in a different one, so in fact we're sometimes limiting ourselves. And we also have, if you've read the book about the filter bubble, the filter bubble phenomenon is that we love to use machines which help us find stuff we like. So we love it when we're bathed in what things we like to click on, and so the machine automatically feeds us the stuff that we like and we end up with this rose-colored spectacles view of the world called a filter bubble. So here are some of the things which maybe threaten the social web we have.
What sort of web do you want? I want one which is not fragmented into lots of pieces, as some countries have been suggesting they should do in reaction to recent surveillance. I want a web which has got, for example, is a really good basis for democracy. I want a web where I can use healthcare with privacy and where there's a lot of health data, clinical data is available to scientists to do research. I want a web where the other 60 percent get on board as fast as possible. I want a web which is such a powerful basis for innovation that when something nasty happens, some disaster strikes, that we can respond by building stuff to respond to it very quickly.
So this is just some of the things that I want, from a big list, obviously it's longer. You have your list. I want us to use this 25th anniversary to think about what sort of a web we want. You can go to webat25.org and find some links. There are lots of sites where people have started to put together a Magna Carta, a bill of rights for the web. How about we do that? How about we decide, these are, in a way, becoming fundamental rights, the right to communicate with whom I want. What would be on your list for that Magna Carta? Let's crowdsource a Magna Carta for the web. Let's do that this year. Let's use the energy from the 25th anniversary to crowdsource a Magna Carta to the web. (Applause)
Thank you. And do me a favor, will you? Fight for it for me. Okay? Thanks.