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November 23, 2010

Berners-Lee warns Facebook is fragmenting the web

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by Darren Allan

Web architect Tim Berners-Lee has had his soap box out again, on the subject of the great worldwide construct he is credited as inventing.

Berners-Lee has written an article in the Scientific American accusing online juggernauts such as Facebook of subverting the web for their own ends. Or as he puts it, “some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles.”

He points to “large social networking sites” creating walled off areas from the rest of the web, and also wireless Internet providers being “tempted” to slow traffic to sites who haven’t paid them (an idea recently floated by Ed Vaizey, although he quickly did a U-turn on it).

These concepts are a corruption of democratic and equal online rights, and principles such as net neutrality. Berners-Lee argues that if development of the worldwide web is allowed to proceed further down this road, the web could be broken into “fragmented islands”, with surfers losing the freedom to connect to wherever they want.

Berners-Lee also singled out Apple and its walled off iTunes world, while calling for open standards on the web to drive innovation.

He wrote: “Now is an exciting time. Web developers, companies, governments and citizens should work together openly and cooperatively, as we have done thus far, to preserve the web’s fundamental principles, as well as those of the Internet, ensuring that the technological protocols and social conventions we set up respect basic human values.”

“The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.”

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