Let’s throw our collective weight behind Tim Berners-Lee’s contract for the web
In March 2018, when I first heard about world wide web founder Tim Berners-Lee’s initiative to improve the internet, I may have been skeptical, but had no doubts about offering my modest backing. His letter, published back then to mark the 29th anniversary of its creation, seemed to me to be serious, well-founded and worthy of support.
Since then, Berners has been working on his contract for the web, trying to build consensus for a series of ideas that virtually any web user would recognize as common sense, at a time when, unfortunately, common sense is in short supply and many abnormalities have come to be seen as normal. My institution, IE University, has been part of the consortium working to develop the contract since its inception.
Berners’ announcement today is a way of trying to evaluate support for the contract, based on nine principles for a better web with parts that governments, companies and citizens can generate. A declaration of good intentions? Much of its suggests as much, but let’s not forget that behind the initiative is the person who gave birth to the web, who could have made himself a very rich man as a result, but who preferred to help strengthen its role to build a better world.
The web today isn’t what it could or should have been, largely for the same reason so many good projects are corrupted: the absence of bodies to regulate them above the powerful interests of governments and corporations. Today the web is used by nations to wage war against others, to spy on us, to sell stuff, and where we can happily engage in trickery, harassment or abuse. Changing that depends on everyone, and one way to try to do that may be to support an initiative from the man who started it all, the place I’m typing in and where you’re reading and, I hope, in a little while commenting.
What good will Berners’ contract do, especially when it is supported by people and organizations we have lost all trust in? Maybe it’s too late, anyway? What’s more, there’s no authority capable of forcing governments or large corporations to change the way they use the web? Nobody said this would be simple. That said, we can’t just give up and do nothing. So let’s start by agreeing on what we want to do, what we think it’s important to do, and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it. If you agree, visit this page and sign the contract, either as an individual or as an institution. The more of us there are, the more likely Berners’ initiative will lead to something.
(En español, aquí)