4 min read

On Monday, at Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, Tim Berners-Lee outlined his plan to ‘save’ the web he invented. His idea is simple: he wants to create a ‘contract’ for the web. The intervention comes at an important time, in a year of ‘techlash’ and increasing scepticism in the belief in technology’s and the web’s ability to deliver progress for everyone.

Tim Berners-Lee on Contract for the Web

In his talk, Berners-Lee pointed out that one of the properties the web should preserve is universality. He also argued that The web should be independent, with no restrictions on what it can be used for. It should be available in any region, culture, and religion.

He sees these values as things that are currently under attack: “Those of us who are online are seeing our rights and freedoms threatened.” He also listed other challenges that have failed to be addressed, including fake news and privacy.

His solution to these huge challenges is something called ‘Contract for the Web,’ which will, he claims, outline “clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better.”

Although Berners-Lee was relatively light on detail, the full contract is due to be published in May 2019. In theory, it should define people’s online rights and lists the key principles and duties government, companies, and citizens should follow. In Berners-Lee’s mind, it will restore some degree of equilibrium and transparency to the digital realm.

The core principles of Contract for the Web

Tim Berners-Lee did offer some information on what the Contract for the Web will include. Below are some of the key principles for the key stakeholders in the running of the web – government, businesses, and citizens – people like you.

Government

  • Anyone should be able to connect to the web irrespective of who they are and where they live and they should be allowed to actively participate online.
  • Internet should be available all the time so that nobody is denied to the right of full internet access.
  • Privacy, people’s fundamental right, should be respected so that they can use the internet freely, safely, and without fear.

Companies

  • They should present the user an affordable and accessible internet.
  • Consumers’ privacy and personal data should be respected.
  • Make technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst.

Citizens

  • Citizens should involve themselves in creating and collaborating to provide rich and relevant content for everyone.
  • They should build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity.
  • To ensure that the open web remains open, they should come together and fight for it.

This contract is already seeing a great support with more than 50 organisations signing the contract including some of big shots like Facebook and Google. This contract is being promoted by the campaign, #ForTheWeb.

The contract is part of a broader project that Berners-Lee believes is essential if we are to ‘save’ the web from its current problems

  • First, we need to create an open web for the users who are already connected to the web and give them the power of fixing issues that we have with the existing web.
  • Secondly, we need to bring the other half of the world, which is not yet connected to the web.

Tim Berners Lee speaks to CNN about Contract for the Web

After his talk, Tim Berners-Lee was interviewed by Laurie Segall from CNN. Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • Internally, companies should have the motto of doing the right thing. To make sure the principles are upheld, some measures will be introduced. But also, this contract is not just about creating a set of rules and enforcing them, rather it is about changing the attitude.
  • Privacy is our fundamental right and we should always fight for it. Fighting for privacy is important, not just because of the data breaches we are seeing but to empower individuals to be able to share anything they want without any fear.
  • As a tech company we should realize the implication of each line of code we write and think how it will affect people’s lives.

To sum it all up Tim Berners-Lee said:

We all are going to step back and put aside all the myths we are currently taking as physics of the way things work. People do not have to motivated only by ad-based fund model or by click bates. Contract for the Web is about going back to the values. It is about people coming together to build the web and taking things in their own hand.

You can watch the full Tim Berners-Lee’s talk and the interview on YouTube.

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