back to article Greatest Living Briton loses £30m

The 'Institute of Web Science' is another casualty of the UK's spending cuts. The £30m institute was announced only two months ago in Labour's drunken pre-election cash splurge. The Greatest Living Briton, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, was appointed to lead it, with backing from Southampton University - the Harlem Globetrotters of …


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  1. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Greatest Living Briton

    I thought that the title of "Greatest Living Briton" would be bestowed on Dr. Stephen Hawking?

    1. Jimmy Floyd


      I thought it was actor John Hurt!

      (and I believe his name is 'Professor' Stevie H)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward



        I never heard that name before!

  2. loopy lou

    Spot on

    "webtastic wankery of dubious intellectual merit and zero commercial potential."

    Nicely put. Perhaps some of the smart young lads and lasses that would otherwise have been consumed with ineffectual ramblings will now get booted out to actually do something (ex ineffectual rambler).

  3. Anonymous Cowherder

    and again

    For every "Labour's drunken pre-election cash splurge." there is a Millennium Dome, replacement for QE2 that the Tories "drunkenly splurged" in the dying days of Major.

    Short memories reg, short memories....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err, but...

      That "drunken splurge" didn't result in the country being £156 billion in debt, now did it...?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        yes it did

        we never got it back and it's part of that balance sheet even now

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        How much, debt then then...

        Did it result in?

        Irrational British passtime: Blaming the government for the national economy *from day one*

        Irrational British assumption: whatever party you like inherited a glowing economy and blew it

        Great British Tragedy: governments are not elected; it is the other lot that are rejected. Labour came to power because the country was sick and fed up of the tories. The other lot have just been elected because the country was sick and fed up of labour.

        Same old story continues.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Aaaaa memories of the "perfect past" :-)

      A small £200billion correction. When the Tories "left" power for the new labore government there was nearly £56billion in credit in the public kitty for new labore to spunk up on crap :-)

      Have a look at the recent spendings by tower hamlets just before they all got tossed out to see classic examples.

      And no I don't have a short memory, I still remember a certain labore three day working week as well which seems to have been forgotten.

      Has anyone noticed that whenever the tories get back in power the country is fucked? They fix it and get kicked out again? (repeat as needed).

      1. Jolyon

        What I have noticed

        is that people who use stupid puns for the names of politicians and political parties (and I.T. companies come to that) come over as so cretinous that any good point they might be making is lost in a tsunami of derision.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Three day week was under Heath

        The three day week was a Tory invention when Heath's government was being crippled by Miners strikes. Also, shows that the last year of Tory govt (to April 1997) ran a largish deficit, which turned into a credit for the first year of the labour government. Dunno what country you're remembering.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Millenium Dome

    Seem to think that they recognized that this would have implications past the general election and as a result there was consultation with the other parties over this. Also, it was greatly expanded by Blair when Labour came in. Only consultations over the past year on major spending decisions seem to have been from senior Civil Servants requesting written recorded instructions to take actions that they considered to not to be financially appropriate.

  5. Tom 38


    Funny how all Labour apologists post AC..

    Perhaps you may not have noticed, at the end of the Major government, the Tories had moved us out of the global recession of the late 80s/early 90s and there actually was money to be spent.

    At the end of the Brown government, they had spent everything they had, and then an additonal £156bn.

    Plus, I think you will find the Millenium Dome in its current form was a New Labour invention - 'personally saved' by Blair and run by Mandelson. The Tories intended a much smaller dome (ie, one that didn't cost nearly £800m and wouldn't be virtually given away to merkins.)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      the Tories hadn't moved us out of anything

      The natural up and down cycle of the global economy did that and always will, just as surely as it will periodically go into recession.

      This is how capitalist free-market economies are doomed to behave.

      (Oh and do you really think "Tom 38" is somehow not anonymous? You could be called Angela for all we know.)

      1. Brutus


        With 'Tom 38', we can at least maintain a semblance of continuity through an argument.

        And, whilst you are correct in pointing out the cyclic nature of the global economy, there is still a significant amount that individual governments can do to affect their local economies. Compare and contrast Germany and Greece, for example.

  6. irish donkey

    The Internet is dead.........

    The DEB will ban the whole of the internet and the mind Police will watch us in our homes to ensure we don't hum an unlicensed track, Think an Unlicensed track or Lord forbit get down with a lady in time to a Unlicensed track.

    Funny ha ha..

    How big of leap will it be before all the internet will be banned because it promotes terrorism, deviante behaviour or unlicensed music.

    1. I didn't do IT.

      Its coming...

      With the corporate push against Net Neutrality (FCC article today), it is coming faster than you might think.

      We will soon be back to the internet being a set of closed gardens, each with a toll to be let in for a short amount of time, and then told to get back in line if we want another ride. The wide expanses we know and love (or hate) today will simply be streamlined highways cutting swathes to get to our "destinations" so we don't have to view or ponder the dirty shacks and grimy dealings of those below our clean, happy overpasses. Of course, the only reason they might still be there is the cost and expense of cleaning them up (or out) isn't worth it... yet.

      The gatekeepers will be fully licensed constables to ensure proper usage, attitude, and demeanor or else off to the gaol you go, to spend your days stamping out the latest shite on CD for our corporate copyright masters. (This last is satire - hopefully!)

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Its coming...

        You're bonkers.

  7. Neil Paterson
    Black Helicopters

    @ NoneSuch: Stephen Hawking "Greatest Living Briton"

    Watch out, it's a conspiracy I tell you all! NoneSuch (He doesn't exist, see?) is part of Hawking's conspiracy to take over scientific progress and therefore the future of humankind! All this nonsense about the LHC being about to destroy the universe, it's balls, spread by the Hawking cabal to try and stop it proving the existence of the Higgs-Boson, and therefore DISPROVING his own theories!

    He's actually Davros, I tell you! He may have a brain the size of a planet, but we'll ALL be trundling around in shopping trolleys following his orders if his conspiracy works, I tell you!

    (Did I use enough exclamation marks to make that sound genuine?)

    p.s. M'Learned Friend would like to point out that all of the above was obviously meant as satire, and not to dis-respect the obvious talent and reputation of Professor Hawking...

  8. Anonymous Coward

    death to all titles

    The deficit has been spent on propping up a load of banks that should have been allowed to go bust. Instead of bankrupt banks, we now have bankrupt countries, with the banks betting on which countries are going to go under first. Truly one of the greatest scams of all time; my parents used to go on about bankers ramps, now I know what they mean...

    One could reasonably blame G Brown, but I bet the tories wouldn't have had the balls to engage in a bit of creative destruction (© Schumpeter) esp. when it was their mates that would have gone under.

    Still, no ID cards hey :-) - price worth paying and all that?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Wrong on all counts actually.

      The money that was used to bail out the banks isn't counted in that £156,000,000,000 debt.

      The bailout is on a different balance sheet - one of the joys of trick accounting.

      To be fair, at current share prices the 'bailout' of RBS is actually in a nominal profit.

      That's a false assertion though because we couldn't actually get that money if we sold those shares, as the price would crash partway through the sale.

      However, the calculation used to decide that we're currently in profit is exactly the one that the banks still use to pay out the bonuses.

      I hope that the ConLibs actually do put a stop to that particular total insanity.

  9. dr48

    ECS, Southampton

    As someone who has been through the Harlem Globetrotters of getting grants (which is specifically the School of Electronics and Computer Science [ECS], University of Southampton) I can tell you that an awful lot comes out of the School.

    Obviously my viewpoint is sullied, but those I've spoken to who've seen ECS and other tech departments in the UK, and Europe, say it's head and shoulders above.

    They may win a lot of research grants, but they also produce an awful lot of good work (much wider than the new-media-darlings' semantic web). It's the UK's MIT.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ECS==MIT ? Get real

      Andrew Orlowski's line "...Southampton University - the Harlem Globetrotters of getting grants for webtastic wankery of dubious intellectual merit and zero commercial potential." made me laugh out loud, really out loud. Andrew: many thanks.

      Re the School of ECS at Southampton Uni and one commenter's claim that "it's the UK's MIT."

      This is a line that I have heard from more than one person who has spent time at ECS

      This is a line that I have never, ever, heard from anyone with no such link to ECS.

      Certainly no-one at any of the other top UK EE/CS departments/schools (of which there are at least five, maybe ten, depending on which league-table you care to cite)

      No-one at any of the other top European EE/CS schools (TUMuenchen, for example?)

      And, most tellingly, no-one ever at MIT. Or Stanford. Or Berkeley or CMU or Caltech. Or any other such top-flight US institution.

      Something that ECS folk too often seem not to get is that when you believe your own publicity, your own spin, you are on very thin ice.

      I'll get my coat...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      ECS Southampton - blighty's MIT?

      don't fucking think so.

      mit put distributed computing and workstations into production when most of the world used dumb terminals connected to mainframes and the like. project athena brought us x windows, kerberos and distributed computing. they also provided the home for the gnu project.

      what has southampton's ecs done that has had anything like the same influence or impact? sure, the school has an excellent reputation and is one of the top places for computing in england. but that's still well behind the status of mit or stanford or berkeley or cmu.

  10. DrXym

    Semantic webs etc.

    The concept of a semantic web is great. The implementation of it is not. I attended a seminar where some university group with EU funding seriously and hilariously thought people were going to load up their pages with RDF. It just isn't going to happen that way. RDF is an ugly, confusing, error prone XML markup that is almost impossible to write by hand.

    The only way you're going to get any kind of semantic functionality into HTML is by making the process completely painless. Either that the semantics come free from using a service like Facebook, etc. where semantics are implicit (e.g. you add friends and therefore semantics fallout of the relationships). Or by defining some terse and domain specific notation that is easy to insert and use but which can be translated into RDF or similar by script. For example, Wikipedia naturally provides semantics through its various built-in tags without bogging down the user too much.

    I wonder if the day of handing out £30 million to some university is the way to go anyway. Perhaps the money should be handed out almost as venture capital to businesses who are producing "Web 3.0" content. Let the good ideas prove their worth in a commercial setting.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Semantic webs etc.


      It's a career CompSci academic's version of the perpetual motion machine. For perpetual grants.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Semantic webs etc.

      "......businesses who are producing "Web 3.0" content.'

      Ok. What sort of paws is that made out of then?

      Better suggestion. Pile 30 million quid in a heap on the floor and set fire to it. Exactly the same effect, only without the overhead of disbursing it.

      1. DrXym

        Venture capital

        I didn't say grant I said venture capital. Let businesses propose ideas that fit the remit and then invest in the ones most likely to give a return on the money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Which forward thinking business was it....

          ...that supported TBL when he devised the WWW?

  11. John Diffenthal

    Millenium Dome

    I'm pretty sure that the Millenium Dome design - at least the outer shell and its scale - is the one that was approved by Michael Heseltine.

  12. SingerScientist

    Goldfish memory?

    Whitecollar boondoggles....and ahem, rescuing certain banks (and the whole economy) from super-capitalist madness. Also, I do believe that health and education do have non-building costs, and that even PFI is not cost-free, but better check on that eh?

  13. Maverick

    before NuLabour

    . . . . I had a pension fund - thanks for that Gordon

    Though at least I am no longer ruled by a funch* of failed Scottish politicians who couldn't get elected even running against that snidey idiot Alex Salmond

    * new word - work it out :)


    1. Kevrod79

      Says it all!!

      Amen Maverick!!

  14. Blitheringeejit

    End of Open Data, or just of grants for mangling it?

    While sympathetic to the view that much of the Semantic Web evangelism is academic navel-gazing of the most wanktastical kind, I do hope this isn't a prelude to the complete cancellation of the Open Data initiative. While the commercial possibilities have been hopelessly overhyped, the provision of direct endpoints for accessing yer ackshul hard data about this poor benighted country, and what the b*stards in Westminster are doing to it, has to be worth standing up for?

    I for one welcome our new RDF overlords and their triple-plus-good ontologies...

    1. jphb

      Yes and no

      Open Data Initiative - yes please!

      Convoluted RDF mark up - no thank you!

      Let the user associate semantics with data, otherwise you

      are prejudging and constraining applications.

  15. Anonymous Cowherder


    "Has anyone noticed that whenever the tories get back in power the country is fucked? They fix it and get kicked out again? (repeat as needed)."

    The country was fucked in '97, the country at the moment is suffering during a global recession.

    Granted, without the recession Labour would still have lost this election but to say the country is fucked far from the truth. There is more to a country than a balance sheet and economics, there are people, societies and communities - these are the parts of the country that the tories dry-fuck.

    This time with Incompetent George they will fuck up the economy and the society, Yay! Go team!

    Even Tebit has said he regrets that the tory policies of the 80s and 90s created the society that we now all inhabit.

    Yes, this is a pseudonym, but I am a "labour apologist" under my own name on many other sites.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous Cowherder

    "The country was fucked in '97, the country at the moment is suffering during a global recession".

    Ah. Well, faced with such a rigorous and penetrating analysis, supported by comprehensive financial and economic data, who could possibly question your authoritative judgment?

    Many of us (most of those able to think critically, I suspect) would say the exact opposite.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe we owe TBL some funding...

    I hope everyone knows how TBL, Robert Caillau, and others invented the Web and gave it away without the slightest attempt to make money out of it. Possibly the most important technical innovation of the past quarter-century (at least), and one whose value must be in the tens or hundreds of billions. Guys like Bill Gates, who see everything in terms of money, must have thought TBL and his colleagues were raving mad - once they began to understand the Web and see its potential. Knighting TBL was the very least our government could do; IMHO he should have been offered an earldom (he'd have turned it down, but it's the thought that counts).

    So maybe we British voters and taxpayers should be ready to put our hands in our pockets in order to give TBL more resources for further bright ideas. Innovation on such a grand global scale is a very tricky, uncertain business. Merit is helpful, but a few million pounds are useful too - especially in the hands of people who know how to make the most of it. Personally, I would be happy to let him have (say) 50 quid a year - for others, it might be far less but still substantial in aggregate. How about the cost of half a dozen drinks a year - about 15 pounds? Multiplied by 20 million taxpayers, that would yield 300 million. Divide it by ten, make it a one-off rather than yearly - it would still give Semantic Web R&D a boost that just might make all the difference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      maybe we do ...

      Didn't TBL get a Nobel Prize (with attendent sackload of cash)? Or something similar anyway.

      Anyway if he deserves another reward for his doubtlessly selfless work, then he should get one without it being dressed up as a job running a smoke-and-mirrors, hot air and flummery institute of soggy flatulence. In my opinion.

  18. Ancient Oracle funkie
    Paris Hilton

    El reg = political forum?

    'tis all pointless as if you're of a Tory persuasion it's always Tory = good, Labour = bad. On the other hand for Labourites it's the opposite. So don't bother with arguing dogma on a tecnology forum.

    Oh and if you're a Lib Dem, you just sell your soul and principles for a bit of power!

    BTW great idea to personally donate to TBL. Suggest he sets himself up with a Paypal account, I'd donate!

    Paris - I mean, I'd certainly enter a coalition with her

  19. Laurence Blunt

    @Tom 38

    Just a minor correction to your post:

    Gormless Brown; didn't just spend an extra £156B over and above TAX revenue.

    He spent the surplus of when they came to power, and then over the next 13 years spent everything, and then carried on spending until the national debt is now £900B.

    The £156B is just for the last year!!!!

    Even before the excuse of: "It's not my fault the World went into recession", Brown had built up about half a trillion quid of debt.

  20. Ivor 1
    Paris Hilton

    Fiddling the figures

    I love "webtastic wankery" (and agree huge waste exists in the public sector), but don't we need to take account of the following (advised by a friend who works in Central Govt.):

    "- financial stability / propping up banks @ 85 Bn

    - debt interest @ 24 Bn

    - wars @ 5 Bn

    So what we're really saying is nine years of inflation equals 25%?"

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Oops

      You've confused budget deficit with national debt.

      "don't we need to take account of the following (advised by a friend who works in Central Govt.)"

      The bank bail out cost £850 billion (NAO figures).

      So your friend in Central Government can't tell the difference between the deficit and debt. That explains a lot.

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