On March 12th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to make information sharing possible over computers, using nodes and links to create a "web" that would eventually stretch worldwide and become the modern internet. Now, 25 years to the day after he disseminated that proposal, Berners-Lee has called for the internet he invented to stay free and open.
In a guest post on Google's official blog, Berners-Lee asked internet users to press for the development of a "digital bill of rights" that would "advance a free and open web for everyone." Berners-Lee hails today's anniversary as a day to celebrate, but also warns that internet users should think and act ahead of "key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet" that he says are "looming."
In order to maintain unfettered access to an internet that is gradually becoming more restricted, Berners-Lee points to the Web at 25 campaign. The campaign will celebrate the internet by showing a series of birthday messages from web luminaries and promoting the use of a #web25 hashtag. Berners-Lee hopes the campaign — which also features a video message from the inventor — will act as a focal point for the kind of grassroots action he's calling for. The Web at 25 campaign, along with fellow net neutrality campaign home Web We Want, incorporates Berners-Lee's bill of rights concept as a part of its future plan for a free and open internet
Berners-Lee has been a staunch proponent of an open internet in recent years, and a critic of the surveillance activities of groups such as the American NSA and British GCHQ. Speaking to The Guardian, the internet inventor detailed why he was using the anniversary to push for online freedom. "Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years."
Berners-Lee asked internet users to push for an online 'bill of rights'
His comments on the internet's future come at the same time as thoughts from Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. Schmidt and Cohen — co-authors of recently published book The New Digital Age — wrote about the current state of internet freedom in The New York Times. The article references recent web censorship by governments in countries such as Russia and Iran, but also says that given the "energies and opportunities out there," it would be possible to end repressive internet censorship within a decade.
In Berners-Lee's eyes, an unrestricted web is vital to human development. "Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities, and diversity of culture."