back to article Tim Berners-Lee says regulation of the web may be needed

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee has used the 29th anniversary of the publication of his proposal for an "information management" system that became the world-wide web to warn his creation is in peril. "The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today," Berners-Lee wrote in his regular birthday letter. " …

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  1. Outcast !!!

    Shutdown Facebook, Twitter and ads networks for the start.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put somebody who doesn't understand tech in charge of it.

    That's how it works in governments these days isn't it?

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Ruddy Hell!

      That way of thinking leads to putting Amber Rudd in charge.

      Don't even joke about that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ruddy Hell!

        "That way of thinking leads to putting Amber Rudd in charge.

        Don't even joke about that."

        That prospect becomes overwhelmingly attractive when you realise that the alternative from Labour is Dianne Abbott.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "Put somebody who doesn't understand tech in charge of it."

      Like Tim Berners Lee?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Like Tim Berners Lee?

        Have you listened to him lately? I walked out in the middle of his last visitor speaker speech at the IETF in Prague (or was it Berlin). The speech is recorded - I suggest you watch to it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "in the middle of his last visitor speaker speech at the IETF in Prague (or was it Berlin)."

          If you were so confused to not to know where you were, I could understand it. Drink less beer, next time...

        2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Talks.html

          Zurich?

      2. Flywheel Silver badge
        Unhappy

        I always favoured Martha Lane-Fox (Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, CBE) for her tremendous and tangible contribution to our digital ecosystem. Should give Tim a run for his money!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can't we get God to do it? We could have the ten commandments of the internet and if you break them you are smote down by lightening. They could even be delivered on a tablet. If she exists it's the only option really.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I'm afraid that God is not an option. The Rapture happenned a few centuries ago and we're the descendents of the ones who got left behind. Hence Google.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Plus I believe many of these data centers are already guarded by lightning rods and the like. Like trying to smite a clay golem.

              1. Rich 11 Silver badge

                Like trying to smite a clay golem.

                Yeah, +2 longswords are a bit thin on the ground these days.

                I blame Brexit.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "Like trying to smite a clay golem"

                Don't smite. Just remove the scroll.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "If she exists it's the only option really."

            Who is the she - God's secretary?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Who is the she

              God is obviously a woman, look at the bible, it's a entire book written by men explaining what she said.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Who is the she

                "God is obviously a woman"

                Must be a transexual then. Seeing as he was father to Jesus according to the bible.

                1. onefang

                  Re: Who is the she

                  "Must be a transexual then. Seeing as he was father to Jesus according to the bible."

                  Parthenogenesis is a thing, it's the most common form of virgin birth. Maybe that's why there is a Parthenon in Greece.

          3. Daniel von Asmuth
            Angel

            Divine intervention?

            That Web may have been nice when it was an internal bulletin board at CERN, but taking it world-wide was a mistake. To really make a hell out of it required commercial exploitation combined with government regulation. If you want freedom, you must grant it also to fraudsters, terrorists, scientologists, used-car salesmen and paedophiles.

            Now would be a good time to pray....

          4. Vendicar Decarian1

            "Can't we get God to do it?"

            Yes. Yes. that is a good plan. We should also invent guns available on line so that American Republicans can kill people remotely if they feel threatened or if they feel that their God given right to own a gun is being undermined.

            God gave us guns to cleanse the world. Guns are good. The Penis is evil. The Penis shoots seeds.

            .

      3. Updraft102

        "Put somebody who doesn't understand tech in charge of it."

        Like Tim Berners Lee?

        Is Tim Berners-Lee a branch of government these days, or is it the same old government idiots that would be regulating things if his suggestion were followed?

        He may understand the tech that underlies the web, but he seems not to understand the propensity for governments to take problems and make them far worse. Think it's bad with Facebook in charge of Facebook? Try putting some idiot govermment clods in charge of it and see how bad it can really be. It's really remarkable that people keep thinking government can fix things with the ample evidence to the contrary all around us. Having them not get any worse is about the best we can hope for with the government, and even hoping for that usually proves to be overly optimistic.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          In my experience, the government does no worse than corporations on this count. Probably because there's little difference between the two.

      4. Dan 55 Silver badge

        He dared to suggest that there could be another way to keep servers up other than advertising (that bit wasn't mentioned in El Reg). There's got to be merit to that.

        1. David Shaw

          Professor Sir TimBL was always an optimist, but realist too

          Dan55, I ilked this extract from the Grauniad article that you linked

          Berners-Lee has always maintained that his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, his vision to create an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries” has been challenged as the web has become more centralised.

          “I’m still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence,” he told the Guardian in November. “We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things.”

          TimBL saw as soon as his W.W.W was launched that it needed defending, and he set about taking and standardising the carpet away from under the extend, embrace, extinguish mob. The centralize, snoop, subvert/weaponize mob are hard-at-it now, ramping up control since the late 90's. They are doing historically-unprecedented attacks on behalf of their sovereign nation states, following or sometimes leading a political agenda, intertwined with a badvert business model. As sovereign nations they of course *can* do this, they just have to rationally explain to the people of the web , why.

          Come on nations that aren't scared of their people, invest in the future, like the 2004 Finnish: Millennium-teknologiapalkinto

          http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/14/business/pioneer-who-kept-the-web-free-honored-with-a-technology-prize.html

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        > "Put somebody who doesn't understand tech in charge of it."

        > Like Tim Berners Lee?

        Hahahahaha. That comment made it worth reading El Reg today (and I didn't even notice who wrote it.)

        Seriously: who the hell made Tim the Pope of the Internet? "Invent" an ambiguous ad-hoc subset of SGML, write a simple viewer and TCP server which just sees "GET /dir/file.html" and sends that file, use "protocol :// computer name /dir/ file.html" as a stable human-readable linking scheme. The fact that it caught on and spread like wildfire just proves that idiocy is contagious.

        Corporate monopolies and naughty users, who could have predicted the web would turn out this way? Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, Usenet, and BBSes were nothing like that! Google was "not evil" even after its 2005 IPO. Twitter and Facebook gave billions of oppressed peoples a voice! It was all sunshine and rainbows until the last two years!

        Nevertheless, Tim's right to pile on the "web monopolies must be regulated" bandwagon. Companies who've engaged in mass surveillance, censorship, and election rigging in collusion with the unelected "deep state" are in no position to cry government censorship. Either way the web gets smothered to death, and that's fine; it was always crap. And people will always find places to speak freely, even if much of that speech is cringeworthy and "problematic".

        1. David Shaw

          Yes trolly, Tim 'invented' the WWW quite a while before release, hyperlinking all his DD department notes on his CompaQ 80286 'luggable', so that he could find a document in the vast space of its 20 megabyte hard disk. He did some typing in my apartment near Prévessin, probably before the ISO 8879 SGML release?

          His genius, apart from regularly beating me at Scrabble, was to extend an idea that 'worked on his PC' in the mid 80's, to just 'the rest of the world.' And then defend it, gratis. That's why The Queen's College, Oxford have named a [small] cafeteria after him.

          And SGML was written by a non-programming car-rally enthusiast called Charles, don't forget, who commented The World Wide Web, for example, succeeded commercially while many nobler, more technically interesting hypermedia systems proved only of academic interest, because of the Web's artful compromise in connecting technology to the needs of a real user community Tim was awake, he groks tech.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Put somebody who doesn't understand tech in charge of it."

        I think Tim understands all too well but if you are a self publicist then you have to keep getting your name mentioned or the free money dries up.

    3. Vendicar Decarian1

      The internet is a series of tubes.

  3. bobsmith2016

    Whatever regulations there are/will be. Be very careful about how they are written and subsequently enforced. Law of unintended outcomes, etc

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      The future GDPRs will take care of it

      It will take some time and will not happen in a day.

      The writing is on the wall though - the cost of "leveraging" social data will continue to increase over time due to increased regulatory burden. GDPR is only the start. There will be more to come and it will definitely come at least in the EU. German and Austrian points of view on privacy as well as their stubbornness in putting their viewpoint into the letter of law will prevail over time. UK was counterbalancing it into the other direction. Once it is gone the regulations will start sliding against the social web and marketeers.

      One day, in the future an inflection point will be reached when social marketing scum will have to go back to selling double glazed windows to pensioners.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The future GDPRs will take care of it

        Or the point will be reached when the social networks will find it cheaper to bribe and retool the governments involved to be more amenable. That's how it works in the US: if the government doesn't like you, get a friendlier one elected.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The future GDPRs will take care of it

        "One day, in the future an inflection point will be reached when social marketing scum will have to go back to selling double glazed windows to pensioners."

        Oi, keep them off my lawn.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, thinking in a broader sense...perhaps our rules and regulations need to be rethought since geographical boundaries no longer have any meaning?

    I mean....look how far behind the UK was when it came to copyright law...the existing system simply didn't have any concept of digital downloads, and made it technically illegal to copy a song from your computer to your phone...

    And now given how trivial it is to host popular websites outside your own country, most of our laws about hate speech, extremist content and suchlike are completely ineffective. Look at this pathetic attempt to force age verification on porn sites. Since most of them are hosted abroad, it will make absolutely no difference.

    If you want to use regulations to protect the population, then they need to be thinking a couple of steps ahead where we are. Otherwise you're always playing catch-up

    Disclaimer: No, this post isn't encouraging more stupid laws, nor is it approving of anything that you may not like. I'm simply saying that the modern world doesn't respect political borders like the government thinks it does.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Disclaimer: No, this post isn't encouraging more stupid laws, nor is it approving of anything that you may not like. I'm simply saying that the modern world doesn't respect political borders like the government thinks it does."

      But there's no solution in sight there. You're basically declaring the world is anarchist, and I don't think that'll be the case for too long as countries will insist on control of their own borders: physical and otherwise. What'll probably happen will be edge control: balkanization at state borders to force controls on everything like the Great Firewall.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But there's no solution in sight there.

        Sorry...I didn't realise I was obliged to provide a solution!

        Just because I don't have a perfect answer doesn't mean I can't criticise the existing system.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I'm simply saying that the modern world doesn't respect political borders like the government thinks it does."

      Given the US's inclination to extra-territorial legislation I'm not convinced they respect political borders.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Given the US's inclination to extra-territorial legislation I'm not convinced they respect political borders.

        Fair point. But they expect everybody else's reach to stop at their borders...even if they don't do that.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      "...most of our laws about hate speech, extremist content and suchlike are completely ineffective."

      Are they? I don't know how our laws are framed. But, while we might not be able to convince the site hosting the material to remove it, I'm sure we could prosecute the act of sitting at a keyboard and typing hate speech.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm sure we could prosecute the act of sitting at a keyboard and typing hate speech.

        But any law we could make could only be used against British citizens. So...they'd move overseas, or use a VPN, or any number of other solutions. That's what I mean by ineffective.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hate to be pessimistic but it's already game over and no amount of regulation can fix it. Google is where everyone searches therefore google holds the keys to the kingdom. Facebook and Twitter hold the social networks. Unless we are going to get increased choice then nothing will change and we won't get increased choice because they are already well established and anyone that tries to compete is doomed to fail (Google+, Bing). The costs involved are also prohibitive. What we can do is ensure they don't abuse their positions but that is down to catching them doing it, which is not easy in itself. It's also down to governments not using these platforms for their own dastardly deeds though we know they already do (Five Eyes etc...) as that then further reduces the chance of regulation.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I have to agree with you, but for one thing : although Google is indeed almost unavoidable, nobody forces anyone to go on FaceBook or Twitter.

      I avoid social media like the plague, so I am not subject to any "weaponization" of my Internet experience. Plus I have decades of experience in sorting the spam from legit mails in my Inbox, and I can smell an Internet scam mail from miles away.

      Facebook and Twitter are useful to me though, because now all the idiots are over there, so I get a lot less spam. Give it a while, people will tire of it.

      As for the next billion users, most of them will not be English speakers, nor will they even be of Western culture. I do not think Facebook or Twitter will be able to brainwash them. On the other hand, they'll certainly have their own versions available, and will have to learn to deal with it in their own way.

      Being a global platform does not mean everyone acts the same. Facebook will never have the same importance to a Chinese or an Indian than it does for an American.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agreed, nobody forces you but it's use is increasingly creeping into everything else. News stories often have "tweets" of opinion, special offer deals and competitions from companies are increasingly only on Facebook. News releases by companies often come from twitter and Facebook. Websites although not exclusively yet increasingly ask you to log in via twitter or Facebook. Personally I'll stay off them for ever, used Facebook for a while when it started, tried twitter a couple of times though ultimately realised social media is an echo chamber for idiots where opinion becomes fact regardless of it's accuracy.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          But increasingly things like Facebook are the ONLY form of contact for people too close too ignore, such as family. Unless you're willing to live as a hermit, in which case you wouldn't be on the Internet in the first place...

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            I resolved this issue by outliving most of my family. The ones left don't know their arse from their Facebook.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "But increasingly things like Facebook are the ONLY form of contact for people too close too ignore, such as family."

            Only if you allow them to be.

          3. hplasm
            Meh

            @ Charles9

            "But increasingly things like Facebook are the ONLY form of contact for people too close too ignore, such as family."

            Why jump through their hoops?

            If they want to bother you, make them jump through yours, eg "No Facebook. Call me. Or not."

          4. Updraft102

            But increasingly things like Facebook are the ONLY form of contact for people too close too ignore, such as family. Unless you're willing to live as a hermit, in which case you wouldn't be on the Internet in the first place...

            Why do the other family members get to be the only ones that can put their foot down when they select the "only" means of contact? They can decide to "only" be contacted via Facebook, and somehow this is supposed to confer upon me a duty to go along with their edict(s)? No, no! Let them comply with mine. I'll never use Facebook. I've got their domains and scripts blacklisted, and I'm going to leave it that way. If people want to communicate with me electronically, there's email. Let them worry about the only forms of contact for people too close to ignore. If they choose not to participate because they don't wish to use email, it's not going to keep me up nights; it's their choice, after all. Why should I waste my time worrying about other people's choices? I can't change them, and I wouldn't want to even if I was able.

            Maybe that does make me something of a hermit... yet here I am, using the internet!

          5. JohnFen Silver badge

            "increasingly things like Facebook are the ONLY form of contact for people too close too ignore"

            Huh? Your family consists of a bunch of hermits that only communicate through Facebook? I don't buy that for a hot second.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              "Huh? Your family consists of a bunch of hermits that only communicate through Facebook? I don't buy that for a hot second."

              Then you owe me. Try the Philippines, where Facebook is free but e-mail (and any other form of communication, including SMS) costs you in data rates, etc. And I'm certain this is not isolated.

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                There are more ways to communicate than online, though. What did your family do before the internet? I know that my family communicates through other means as well, including (but not limited to) paying physical visits. Are you really arguing that if Facebook were to vanish, all the families in the Philippines (or anywhere else) would collapse because the family members would no longer be able to communicate?

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