Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Tim Berners Lee and the World Wide Web Foundation

Tim Berners Lee has announced the creation of what he’s calling the World Wide Web Foundation. There’s a briefing note about the concept here. Basically it seems to be a reaction towards the exponential growth of the web and an attempt to guide it in the right direction. The mission is to

  • advance one web that is free and open
  • expand the web’s capability and robustness
  • extend the web’s benefits to all people on the planet

All are entirely laudable aims and go some way towards guiding the chaos we all deal with daily.

What is also interesting however is the initial reaction from the press. Both the Guardian and the BBC (my main sources of news!) have focussed on his comments on the ease of finding information and the reliability of information once you’ve found it. Berners Lee has highlighted the amount of poor-quality, misleading or even dangerous information that is out there, and suggested a mixture of methods of quality-labelling. It’s good that these messages seem to be at last getting through, at least to the ‘chattering classes’, but also not surprising that they’ve immediately recognised one of the less practical of his suggestions. The manual quality-labelling of websites is both time-intensive and culture-specific, as Yahoo has found, and machine methods are still in their infancy.

Not surprisingly the media are paying attention towards the aspects of the web that they are most aware of – most of us only come up against infrastructure issues when downloads don’t come down as quickly as we’d like. Similarly our media largely only pays attention to a small part of the world’s population, therefore the 20% or so who have web access largely aren’t aware of the other 80% who don’t. However I hope that the bulk of Berners-Lee’s message isn’t overshadowed by a small portion of what he has actually said. The Web is already out of control and all of us who use it daily should be aware that some guidance is needed to turn it into an instrument for freedom and equality.

September 15, 2008 Posted by | General | | 2 Comments