back to article Greatest Living Briton gets £30m for 'web science'

As an alliance of the desperate, this one takes some beating. The Greatest Living Briton (Sir Timothy Berners Lee) has been thrown £30m of taxpayers' money for a new institute to research "web science". Meanwhile the Prime Minister waxed lyrical today about the semantic web - how "data" would replace files, with machine …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    According to wikipedia....

    (And we can debate how good that is at being accurate.)

    The Greatest Living Briton

    a) doesn't live in this country - a non-dom as it were

    b) has lots of other jobs

    so how about we spend the cash on something more profitable - like transport infrastructure, medicine or anything but this.

    Blast! - I've figured it all out. This money will obviously generate higher efficiency in the public services so Brown can say he's saved the nation without cuts or job losses. It's all so obvious now - he's a goner in a few weeks, shut the door too on the way out, Gordon

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @shut the door too on the way out, Gordon

      Well said! Before actually out.

  2. Matthew Smith

    Greatest Living Briton?!

    Until I read the article body, I was wondering what Margaret Thatcher was going to do with £30M.

    1. hahnchen

      There is a difference...

      ...between living, and undead.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Well she'd probably find something to do with it

      Falklands 2 maybe?

      Thumbs down because I know it wasn't very funny


        Falklands 2

        The Quest for Oil.

        (Or maybe that was the hidden tag line for Falklands 1).

        1. BoldMan

          Ding, correct answer!

          Always said that at the time...

  3. The Other Steve
    Big Brother

    Huh ?

    "moving us from a web of managing documents and files to a web of managing data and information", erm, which will be stored in files and presented as documents until we fundamentally re engineer our OS architecture and UI metaphors.

    Or of course think up new and stupid names for them, but surely no government struggling with a massive debt burden would spunk 30 Mquids on such a ... oh.

  4. JP19

    And I'm sure he believes every word.

    Yes he believes it because :-

    a) He is a complete moron

    b) He is a politician who like the rest of them spend so much time lying they no longer have any concept of what truth and falsehood is.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Out with the Truth .......

    "... and thus opening up the possibility of by-passing current digital bottlenecks and getting direct answers to direct requests for data and information."

    :-) That's rich coming from a politician, who spend all of their time on media avoiding direct answers to direct requests for data and information..... aka questions.

    "Meanwhile the Prime Minister waxed lyrical today about the semantic web - how "data" would replace files, with machine speaking unto machine in a cybernetic paradise." ....... Sounds just like AI @ ITs Work, which is Very Astutely Advanced in C42 Quantum Control Systems. And it was even recently available for 25.9259233333% of £30,000,000, although for the SMARTer Virtual Machine speaking unto Virtual Machine with CyberIntelAIgently Secured Magical Mystery Turing ProgramMING Modules does IT require an 8 figure 8 figured Sum Investment, which would then have £30m covering only 33.75% of the Program Costs, but Either and Both are still Intelligently Designed to Generate Wealth and not simply deplete the Public Purse, which appears to be the Knack Lost in Labour Government. ......... which so easily Spends Other Peoples Monies but Singularly Fails Spectacularly to Make Money and then Resorts in Desperation to Printing Paper which further devalues Worth whilst also Exposing as it does, and IT and Media do, the Systemic Crass Incompetence of Financial Fools Masquerading in Drab Grey Drag as Saviour Wizards.

  6. Nick Kew

    Meanwhile ...

    Meanwhile ... those who really know how to turn a mass of disorgnised information into something useful will just get on with the job. Most obviously Google. But in the UK, our own Autonomy also seems to making a considerable success in a non-web-centric world.

    Fortunately for them, government's track record supports laughing off any new competition it might sponsor.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Wanted Urgent ... Semantic Web dDevelopers ... Apply No10 and 11 Downing Street ...

      ... Name your Price...Immediate Start ...Comprehensive Expenses Package.

      "Meanwhile ... those who really know how to turn a mass of disorgnised information into something useful will just get on with the job." ..... Nick Kew Posted Monday 22nd March 2010 15:58 GMT

      How so very true, Nick Kew, for why would they waste their time and effort on serial losers. And there will be riches galore shortly for this is steaming down the tracks and heading straight for the buffers ........

      It is such a shame that dodgy Governments don't have an Equivalence of one of those CERN LHC "beam dump cores" ..... .... for runaway out of control policies.

  7. Gerard Krupa

    Ask a great dead Briton what the Web is instead...

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. --Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whereas with Brown and Cameron campaigning...

      The alternative 'Sale' reference is also topical.

  8. Annihilator

    Data to replace files

    An awesome line, very reminiscent of The IT Crowd:

    Jen: If this evening is going to work in any way, you need to pretend to be normal people yeah? Keep the conversation about things that would interest everybody. You know, nothing about memory or RAM.

    Moss: <scoff> Memory *is* RAM!

  9. Chris Miller

    Can I hear an "Amen"?

    "The core expertise of a CompSci department today is writing funding applications."

    Sadly, that's now the core expertise of almost all academic departments.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Ex academic

      Too true - and given the number of applications that fail, they're not even very good at it!

      Sucking more technically capable people into the wonderland of irrelevant paper generation is the last thing we need. They'd be much more use actually trying to make things work

  10. Lars Silver badge

    I must admit

    I envy Sir Timothy Berners Lee too.

  11. Inachu


    How to build a sentient web(internet)

    The internet will be the future robots memory bank of our history.

    Sadly the information present thus far give more credibility that after reading just 20% of the web on sentient AI will drive the andriod nuts and kill us all.

  12. Colin Barfoot

    taking the science out of science

    Nigel Shadbolt says, "The Institute for Web Science will act as a bridge between research and business". I found their publication, "Trip Reports from WebSci'09" particularly helpful in this respect.

    For me, the Semantic Web is one of those phenomena that seeks to create order out of chaos, but ends up being subverted into an ideal to which all suitors fail. Believe me, people, we'll all suffer for it (it's in Revelations).

  13. Shannon Jacobs

    The author is a politician?

    Really? Is the author a politician? I thought we Americans had all the biggest political dicks on our side of the pond. I'm burning with envy. Or burning because I can't burn him by voting against him?

  14. David Shaw
    Thumb Up

    Timbl's semantic web will be ideal

    for the (near) future policy based radio services. My nexus 1 has user replaceable firmware - in a telephone!, if the cognitive or local policy driven 'white space' can get around to updating part of that firmware over the air - today you're in Amsterdam so an LTE VOIP call on 900MHz will cost you 1euro whilst joining the fray on the open 2.4GHz 802.11n will be free - but have a bit-error-rate of 1x10^5. Choice, following local laws.

    Tomorrow in NY the "phone" will have to reconfigure itself to CDMA, or download the new Apple widget which allows data transit on the AppleTube? Rules:Encryption is allowed and you should avoid all domains ending in .cx (could be a local policy update from the NY pilot channel hive)

    Semantic is a label attached to the data, suggesting its relevance, authenticity, origin and other attributes. I'm sure that accurately OWL3 programmed spiders using post-Bayesian rules could categorize much of the existing data. labelling it 'mostly harmless', perhaps?. LOLCatz would be labelled/taxed & only available in short legal doses, in those countries that permit it.

    The Web has a bit to go before it gives ubiquitous, always on, customer access. At the same time as critical virtual service delivery - mainly due to expensive real people being re-sized to server based. If today's cashpoint ATM's are switched off there may be food riots in some countries after 3 days; in 20yrs the WWW will be more important than that, I'd appreciate a LOT of research to get it to be a stable resilient semantic system for the mesh network radio topology, probably post IP protocols anyway. beta version in 2016???

  15. sgt101

    At least they are trying something

    Rather than this waste of time nonsense sheet.

    Your ability to differentiate between people who are doing good work and trying their best and charlatans is highly indicative of your own personal capabilities; I suggest that the author of this article and the peanut gallery here all go and dig a hole in their gardens and lie in it until they have had quite enough (I would like to say much more florid things, but I realize the pointlessness and wickedness of loosing my temper).

    Good bye.

  16. elderlybloke

    You would all be licking stamps

    and writing notes to be sent by mail , if Tim had not developed / invented the World Wide Web.

    It seems you all have a lot of time available to try to appear to be intelligent. .

    1. KitD

      WWW does not include SMTP

      Invention of email predates TBL's WWW by about 15 years, I believe.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Some truths

    that fact is he is completely right when talking about the civil service with technology where it is now with a few law changes and less people who've used a typewriter at work in their lifetime we could cut the amount of civil servents by about 40%, but what will they do with their time???

    A lot of civil servants invent procedures and policies that keep them in a job, There's a woman I know who is a digital libarian! She organises files on a computer WTF 25k a year pissed away.

    Most academics don't do anything special and there are way too much standards for the average man, woman or SME could care about so why have all the useless ones that so long to be established by the academics that the tech is out of date before the standard is complete.

  18. AlistairJ

    Greatest living Briton? Pah!

    It was I who first had the idea for the WWW, way back when. Only I quickly decided it was going to be used mainly for spreading filth and falsehoods. So I decided against.

  19. Daleos
    Thumb Up

    Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    And no doubt the people that are complaining about this are exactly the same ones that complain the government don't do anything to promote business and technical excellence in the the UK..

    Yes, the government will in all likelyhood f**k it up but it's better they try than do nothing at all and I'd much rather have Berners Lee running the show than some brain dead minister.

    It's the whingers and whiners of this country that have sucked the 'Great' out of Britain.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

      "And no doubt the people that are complaining about this are exactly the same ones that complain the government don't do anything to promote business and technical excellence in the the UK.."

      Perhaps there are scientists out there who need £30m more than this boondoggle.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Respect is due to you for resurrecting the word boondoggle on these pages. However respect is not due for the way that you are dismissing this project out of hand. A lot of good could come from a smarter, more data-centric web, but it needs people to research ways of achieving that.

        It's easy to write the project off as a failure before it has started and the fact that two billion pounds has already been squandered on failed IT projects since 2000 doesn't exactly bode well. (

        But the web science initiative is being headed by people who *do* actually have a clue about what's going on. Regardless of whether Tim BL has been phished in the past, I'd still say he's done us all a favour by inventing the web and making it an open platform and I'd trust him to know how it can be developed further.

  20. Karl Noofberger

    A smarter web is worth the investment

    To be honest, I have to disagree with the author's view that the semantic web just provides standards that "no one will ever use"... On the contrary, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, the BBC and other big online movers and shakers have all developed software that uses them - it's not just limited to government IT departments in the UK or US!

    It's interesting to me that the original web proposal was called "Information Management: A Proposal" - the Semantic Web seems to be all about improving information management on the web by introducing standards that can make it more machine-readable. This seems really valuable to me - it's nice having HTML for webmail clients and the Reg, but there's more value in having more markup that can describe facts about things on the web. So perhaps it's going to be an interesting new ground for AI and data management.

    Admittedly, there are massive potential pitfalls. Different groups of people will want to use different terms to represent similar data. People will find new and inventive ways of injecting spam and noise into our daily lives. And Big Brother might have more of an interest in what we do on the web if our web-based data gives a better picture of who we are and what we are doing.

    But in spite of that, I'd say it sounds really exciting because the web allows us to link data with potentially far more flexibility than your traditional relational database and web-based software can take off in new directions if it becomes easier to access web-based data.

    The web has transformed people's lives massively over the past twenty years, so the web deserves to be studied as a subject in its own right. Why not invest in making the web more capable, when (in spite of the time wasted distractedly surfing) it's already proved to be so useful to so many people?

    I'm no apologist for the government, but it seems that they've got the right idea in this case.

  21. Etrien Dautre

    30M? Pah!

    Is it really a great sum for a great country?

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