- 10 Jul 09, 13:07 GMT
At the BBC this afternoon, we've had an event to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the world wide web and to mark the launch of a major BBC2 documentary series on the web's history and future. The idea is that the series, which will be broadcast next year, will be a truly interactive process, with web users given access to the rushes, and invited to comment, criticise and generally interfere before, not after, the programmes are finished.
And who better a guest to have at this launch than Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the web's creator? He gave a short speech, then joined a panel discussion with top technology pundit Bill Thompson and Professor Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist who has expressed some concerns about the impact of the web on children. And Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Free, joined us by satellite from San Francisco. The discussion was moderated by Aleks Krotoski - the presenter of the forthcoming television programmes. Here are a few scrambled, slightly chaotic notes from the event:
George Entwhistle, Controller BBC Knowledge, explained the process behind this open source programme.
"We'll share our rushes, blog as we go along and aim to build a web community around the programme. Who better to tell us about the web than the web itself?"
Sir Tim Berners Lee:
"I was coming through customs yesterday and when I said I'd invented the web, the customs officer said Why? My answer was that someone had to, and I was frustrated that it did not exist."
(You can hear some of what Sir Tim said here)
He explains the problem of sharing information at CERN, and how that drove him to come up with the web.
Twenty years on, he says, he's having to explain why we all need to put our data on the web. "Linked data is beginning to take off." He praises the BBC for sharing some of its data.
Government data - we must get it all out there so we can start making all sorts of connections.
Each time there is a paradigm shift, you have to look for the people who "get it" and cherish them.
Looking back over twenty years, it's the spirit of the web that matters.People doing it because they think it's a good idea. That spirit has made it very exciting, it's allowed everyone to get involved.People who didn't say no.
Looking ahead, the exciting things are semantic web and mobile. Only 20% of people have web access now. We have to make sure we target things in low bandwidth to people who may have poor connections.
Important to keep an open standards, royalty-free web.
What do you think of the fact that people post anonymously on the web?
Posting things anonymously is better than blowing up buildings. But as a user you have to learn to filter what you read online.
Q. What's the future of video on the web?
As a consumer, I feel that I should be able to get to - and pay for if necessary - anything that has ever been broadcast. I'm looking forward to a time when the BBC archive is online and I can get BBC content from the US. I'm prepared to pay. The common thread is random access.. The concept of a channel is going to be history very quickly.
Q. What is your view of policing the internet?
Things like fraud have moved online, and of course crime should be pursued on the internet just like everywhere else.
My feeling is that the web should be like a blank piece of paper. You can't buy paper on which you can only write the truth, or not draw a nude.
The medium should not be set up in order to constrain it.
Governements should not snoop on what people do on the internet. It will prevent people from using the net properly. "I don't want the governement to know my shirt-size."
The internet lets you broadcast with an infinite number of channels. The web is "scale agnostic" - it works as well for reaching an individual as for reaching millions..
The 20th century was the century of physical production - an inflationary century.
The internet, and Moore's law, means everything gets cheaper. This allows you to be wasteful on the web - the economic cost is so low. It allows us to build businesses without knowing how they will make money. Companies with network television audiences, like Twitter, can be run with 50 people. We are economically and creatively liberated.
My question is what will the web to do us? The brain will adapt to the different two dimensional environment that the web provides. We might be entering a world that is more sensory than cognitive.
When you read a book you are are led through linear steps. When you go on screen, it's a sensory process..
Wonders whether 3 year olds using Google is such a good idea - what have they learned to ask?
Are we changing round from an answer-poor, question rich environment to the opposite?
We need a debate about all of this. Could it be that if you're putting your brain in a situation where you're living for the moment, that could have consequences. Will it encourage greed and recklessness?
The banality of Twitter. "look at me, mummy, I've got my sock on...".If someone says they have 900 friends what does that say about friendship?
Why don't we have a few brain scans of young people to see what's changing? Can we find out what is so addictive about the web experience? Wouldn't it be great to sit down and think what we want to deliver to our kids? We mustn't blow this - the web can be a fantastic resource but we need to sit down and work out whether it's delivering a better society.
I saw the web first as a relative latecomer in 1993. The change that it has wrought - it's much bigger than television. What it's achieved in just twenty years is astounding. In fact it's more important even than print.
Think about the web in evolutionary terms - like developing a new eye. Delivering us access to more than a raw collection of facts but to knowledge. One of the most important things we have done as a species. So no wonder so many governments want to control it and see it as a threat.
It was built not to respect boundaries. So governments want to do everything they can to limit its potential. Tim told me in the mid-nineties he hoped the internet would help us to know more about our neighbours. "If we knew more, it would make us less likely to kill them." Sadly that hasn't happened - but the web does allow us to know about neighbours being killed.
But it's just starting - the evolution is at an early stage.
People brought up on the web realise that when you give away information you don't lose - no longer a zero sum game. When I speak to government departments about giving away data, they worry that someone else will use that data and make money from it and that will be unfair. On the web the rules are different.
Bill Thompson and Susan Greenfield then have an interesting spat about privacy. Bill is keen to give it all away - and reads his mobile phone number out to the audience. Baroness Greenfield seems shocked.
Tim Berners-Lee explains how we can build structures of trust on the web. You take into account where data comes from, assess its reputation and the people behind it. "There are particular people I trust about movies, and particular people I trust about wine. Concepts of trust are quite subtle."
Baroness Greenfield says young people she meets are beginning to feel uncomfortable about being so transparent online.
Question - is access to the web a human right?
Sir Tim: Yes, like clean water. And of course clean water isn't available everywhere.
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