Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Closer to Home

The man who invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, tells the BBC that blogging has become what he originally envisioned the web being all about. He's also got some other insights that are relevant to the transformation we have launched here in Lafayette through our approval of the LUS fiber to the premises initiative.

Here's a sampling of his comments:
I think it's a more complicated question we have to; first of all, make it a universal medium, and secondly we have to work to make sure that that it supports the sort of society that we want to build on top of it.
* * * * *•
It's a new medium, it's a universal medium and it's not itself a medium which inherently makes people do good things, or bad things. It allows people to do what they want to do more efficiently. It allows people to exist in an information space which doesn't know geographical boundaries. My hope is that it'll be very positive in bringing people together around the planet, because it'll make communication between different countries more possible.

But on the other hand I see it as a substrate for humanity, I see it as something on which humanity will do what humanity does and the questions as to what we as individuals and we collectively do, are still just as important and just as much as before, up to us.
* * * * *•

The idea was that anybody who used the web would have a space where they could write and so the first browser was an editor, it was a writer as well as a reader. Every person who used the web had the ability to write something. It was very easy to make a new web page and comment on what somebody else had written, which is very much what blogging is about.

For years I had been trying to address the fact that the web for most people wasn't a creative space; there were other editors, but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple.

When you write a blog, you don't write complicated hypertext, you just write text, so I'm very, very happy to see that now it's gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium.

* * * * *•
When you say there are a lot of lies out there, if you go randomly picking up pieces of paper in the street or leafing through garbage at the garbage dump what are the chances you'll find something reliable written on the paper that you find there? Very small. When you go onto the internet, if you really rummage around randomly then how do you hope to find something of any of value?

But when you use the web, you follow links and you should keep bookmarks of the places where following links turns out to be a good idea. When you go to a site and it gives you pointers to places that you find are horrible or unreliable, then don't go there again.

You see out there right now, for example, when you look at bloggers some of them are very careful. A good blogger when he says that something's happened will have a point to back, and there's a certain ethos within the blogging community, you always point to your source, you point all the way back to the original article. If you're looking at something and you don't know where it comes from, if there's no pointer to the source, you can ignore it.
* * * * *•

People often quite successfully compare the web with a growing person, and it's certainly had its years of adolescence when it's been trying to push the boundaries, see how far we can go, and I think some of these things, with spam and phishing that we see at the moment are examples of that. And people have been pushing backwards and forwards about piracy, and I think a lot of those things will settle down.

When it's 30, I expect it to be much more stable, something that people don't talk about. Really when you talk about an article, you don't say, "Oh, I'm going to write an article on paper!" The fact that we use pen and paper is sort of rather understood.

Similarly the web will be, hopefully, will be something which is sunk into the background as an assumption. Now, if as technologists develop, we've done our job well, the web will be this universal medium, which will be very, very flexible. It won't, itself, have any preconceived notions about what's built on top.

One of the reasons that I want to keep it open like that, is partly because I want humanity to have it as a clean slate. My goal for the web in 30 years is to be the platform which has led to the building of something very new and special, which we can't imagine now
I think Berners-Lee is correct to observe that the world wide web is "something on which humanity will do what humanity does." I also believe that the LUS fiber system will enable us to be Lafayette, only more so.

That's a good thing!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tim Berners-Lee is my personal hero. His book "Weaving the Web" is essential reading on three levels. How and why the "world wide web" was developed. The critical role that the "W3 Consortium" plays in the webs' standards driven evolution. And, the difference that one person can make when they have a vision and an unselfish commitment to that vision.

His comments quoted above embody that vision. Thanks for the post, Gary McGoffin