Friday, November 19, 2010

Tim Berners-Lee: Long Live the Web

Scientific American: Tim Berners-Lee: Long Live the Web: The world wide web went live, on my physical desktop in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 1990. It consisted of one Web site and one browser, which happened to be on the same computer. ..... We take it for granted, expecting it to “be there” at any instant, like electricity. ..... Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights. ....... Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource ...... The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. ...... Yet people seem to think the Web is some sort of piece of nature ..... The Web should be usable by people with disabilities ...... from a silly tweet to a scholarly paper. .... A related danger is that one social-networking site—or one search engine or one browser—gets
Tim Berners-LeeImage via Wikipedia so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation. ..... many companies spend money to develop extraordinary applications precisely because they are confident the applications will work for anyone, regardless of the computer hardware, operating system or Internet service provider (ISP) they are using—all made possible by the Web’s open standards. ....... The iTunes world is centralized and walled off. You are trapped .... For all the store’s wonderful features, its evolution is limited to what one company thinks up. .... It is better to build a Web app that will also run on smartphone browsers, and the techniques for doing so are getting better all the time. ..... as we saw in the 1990s with the America Online dial-up information system that gave you a restricted subset of the Web, these closed, “walled gardens,” no matter how pleasing, can never compete in diversity, richness and innovation with the mad, throbbing Web market outside their gates. ...... The Web is an application that runs on the Internet, which is an electronic network that transmits packets of information among millions of computers according to a few open protocols. ....... the Web is like a household appliance that runs on the electricity network ..... In 1990 the Web rolled out over the Internet without any changes to the Internet itself, as have all improvements since. And in that time, Internet connections have sped up from 300 bits per second to 300 million bits per second (Mbps) without the Web having to be redesigned to take advantage of the upgrades. ..... A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market economy, of democracy, and of science. .... Although the Internet and Web generally thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved. ..... snooping. In 2008 one company, Phorm, devised a way for an ISP to peek inside the packets of information it was sending. The ISP could determine every URI that any customer was browsing. The ISP could then create a profile of the sites the user went to in order to produce targeted advertising. ...... In France a law created in 2009, named Hadopi, allowed a new agency by the same name to disconnect a household from the Internet for a year if someone in the household was alleged by a media company to have ripped off music or video. ..... In the U.K., the Digital Economy Act, hastily passed in April, allows the government to order an ISP to terminate the Internet connection of anyone who appears on a list of individuals suspected of copyright infringement. In September the U.S. Senate introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the government to create a blacklist of Web sites—hosted on or off U.S. soil—that are accused of infringement and to pressure or require all ISPs to block access to those sites. ..... In these cases, no due process of law protects people before they are disconnected or their sites are blocked. Given the many ways the Web is crucial to our lives and our work, disconnection is a form of deprivation of liberty. Looking back to the Magna Carta, we should perhaps now affirm: “No person or organization shall be deprived of the ability to connect to others without due process of law and the presumption of innocence.” ...... Finland made broadband access, at 1 Mbps, a legal right for all its citizens. ..... the latest version of HTML, called HTML5, is not just a markup language but a computing platform that will make Web apps even more powerful than they are now. The proliferation of smartphones will make the Web even more central to our lives. Wireless access will be a particular boon to developing countries ...... devising pages that work well on all screens, from huge 3-D displays that cover a wall to wristwatch-size windows. ..... linked data. Today’s Web is quite effective at helping people publish and discover documents, but our computer programs cannot read or manipulate the actual data within those documents. As this problem is solved, the Web will become much more useful, because data about nearly every aspect of our lives are being created at an astonishing rate. Locked within all these data is knowledge about how to cure diseases, foster business value and govern our world more effectively. ...... The information necessary to understand the complex interactions between diseases, biological processes in the human body, and the vast array of chemical agents is spread across the world in a myriad of databases, spreadsheets and documents. ...... They posted
Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast InterviewImage via Wikipedia a massive amount of patient information and brain scans as linked data, which they have dipped into many times to advance their research. In a demonstration I witnessed, a scientist asked the question, “What proteins are involved in signal transduction and are related to pyramidal neurons?” When put into Google, the question got 233,000 hits—and not one single answer. Put into the linked databases world, however, it returned a small number of specific proteins that have those properties. ........ The investment and finance sectors can benefit from linked data, too. Profit is generated, in large part, from finding patterns in an increasingly diverse set of information sources. ..... We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine.

I am not worried. I never thought the web was about to die. Apple does not scare me. The iPhone app warlordism does not scare me. The web is part of an ecosystem. It is the biggest fish, but it does not have to be the only fish.

The web is the sexiest part of the internet. But I am okay with the Apple app store. I am okay with iTunes. And I am very okay with Facebook, like very. I don't think you should be able to download all your information a-n-d that of all your "friends." You get to decide for you. You don't get to decide for your friends. Tim is missing the point on Facebook, and his paranoia about the iPhone app store is misplaced.

Swamps give rise to mosquitoes. What has given rise to the Apple app store is not the evil emperor, but the fact that we as a society have been too queasy to fight the corporate powers who deprive u-s of o-u-r wireless space and so deprive us of ubiquitous wireless broadband. And by broadband I mean 100 MB. Anything less does not meet my definition of broadband.

We needed PC softwares because first there was no web, and later there were not good enough web based applications. But now you have Google Doc to replace Microsoft Word.

Similarly, the reasons there are iPhone apps as opposed to much superior browser based mobile apps is because there is no wireless broadband. The bottlenecks do not stand at the innovation level, they stand at the policy level. And just like the peoples of Iran are responsible for the Mullah being still in place, the peoples of America are ultimately responsible for the policy warlordism that deprive them of much cheaper, much faster and yes, wireless broadband.

Power to the people? The people have to rise up before they can claim the power.

But Tim is very right on the civil liberties issue. The government is the problem, like Reagan said.

The emphasis on data is apt. Data is the new Intel inside.
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