Bodong Chen

Crisscross Landscapes

Notes: Berners-Lee. (2010). Long live the Web



Citekey: @Berners-Lee2010

Berners-Lee, T. (2010). Long live the Web. Scientific American, 303(6), 80–85. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1210-80



Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled o from the others. (p. 3)

Universality is the FoUndation (p. 3)

The primary design principle underlying the Web’s usefulness and growth is universality. When you make a link, you can link to anything. That means people must be able to put anything on the Web, no matter what computer they have, software they use or human language they speak and regardless of whether they have a wired or wireless Internet connection. (p. 3)

A related danger is that one social-networking site—or one search engine or one browser—gets so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation. As has been the case since the Web began, continued grassroots innovation may be the best check and balance against any one company or government that tries to undermine universality. (p. 3)

open standards drive innovation (p. 3)

Decentralization is another important design feature. You do not have to get approval from any central authority to add a page or make a link. (p. 3)

By “open standards” I mean standards that can have any committed expert involved in the design, that have been widely reviewed as acceptable, that are available for free on the Web, and that are royalty-free (no need to pay) for developers and users. Open, royalty-free standards that are easy to use create the diverse richness of Web sites, from the big names such as Amazon, Craigslist and Wikipedia to obscure blogs written by adult hobbyists and to homegrown videos posted by teenagers. (p. 4)

Open, royalty-free standards do not mean that a company or individual cannot devise a blog or photo-sharing program and charge you to use it. They can. And you might want to pay for it if you think it is “better” than others. The point is that open standards allow for many options, free and not. (p. 4)

Some people may think that closed worlds are just ne. The worlds are easy to use and may seem to give those people what they want. But 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. If a walled garden has too tight a hold on a market, however, it can delay that outside growth. (p. 4)

In contrast, not using open standards creates closed worlds. Apple’s iTunes system, for example, identi es songs and videos using URIs that are open. But instead of “http:” the addresses begin with “itunes:,” which is proprietary. (p. 4)

Keep the Web separate from the Internet (p. 4)

ut a third principle—the separation of layers—partitions the design of the Web from that of the Internet. (p. 4)

You can’t make a link to any information in the iTunes world— a song or information about a band. You can’t send that link to someone else to see. You are no longer on the Web. The iTunes world is centralized and walled o . (p. 4)

This separation is fundamental. 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. (p. 4)

Other companies are also creating closed worlds. The tendency for magazines, for example, to produce smartphone “apps” rather than Web apps is disturbing, because that material is o the Web. You can’t bookmark it or e-mail a link to a page within it. You can’t tweet it. It is better to build a Web app (p. 4)

Manufacturers can improve refrigerators and printers without altering how electricity functions, and utility companies can improve the electrical network without altering how appliances function. The two layers of technology work together but can advance independently. The same is true for the Web and the Internet. (p. 5)

ElEctronic Human rigHts (p. 5)

This distinction highlights the principle of net neutrality. Net neutrality maintains that if I have paid for an Internet connection at a certain quality, say, 300 Mbps, and you have paid for that quality, then our communications should take place at that quality. (p. 5)

Unfortunately, in August, Google and Verizon for some reason suggested that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone–based connections. (p. 5)

A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market economy, of democracy, and of science. Debate has risen again in the past year about whether government legislation is needed to protect net neutrality. It is. Although the Internet and Web generally thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved. (p. 5)

no snooping (p. 5)

Accessing the information within an Internet packet is equivalent to wiretapping a phone or opening postal mail. (p. 5)

A great example of future promise, which leverages the strengths of all the principles, is linked data. Today’s Web is quite e ective 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 e ectively. (p. 6)

Free speech should be protected, too. The Web should be like a white sheet of paper: ready to be written on, with no control over what is written. (p. 6)

Scientists are actually at the forefront of some of the largest e orts to put linked data on the Web. Researchers, for example, are realizing that in many cases no single lab or online data repository is su cient to discover new drugs. 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. (p. 6)

a good example that can be used as a motivation for CRII (p. 6)

One success relates to drug discovery to combat Alzheimer’s disease. A number of corporate and government research labs dropped their usual refusal to open their data and created the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. They posted 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 speci c proteins that have those properties. (p. 6)

Linked data raise certain issues that we will have to confront. For example, new data-integration capabilities could pose privacy challenges that are hardly addressed by today’s privacy laws. We should examine legal, cultural and technical options that will preserve privacy without sti ing bene cial data-sharing capabilities. (p. 6)

Linking to the Future (p. 6)

as long as the web’s basic principles are upheld, its ongoing evolution is not in the hands of any one person or organization— neither mine nor anyone else’s. If we can preserve the principles, the Web promises some fantastic future capabilities. (p. 6)

For example, 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. (p. 6)

Creating a Science of the Web. Tim Berners-Lee et al. in Science, Vol. 313; August 11, 2006. (p. 6)