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24 September 2014

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Tim Berners-Lee: the future of the web

Professor Berners-Lee on his way to receive an Honorary degree from Oxford University

Professor Berners-Lee on his way to receive an Honorary degree from Oxford University
Professor Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web's address system and layout in 1990, revolutionising communication through the internet. He returned to Oxford, where he took his first degree, to discuss the future of the Web.

Tim Berners-Lee Honoured

Tim Berners-Lee
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Tim gratuated from Queens College, Oxford in 1976

He invented the world wide web in 1989

In 1994 Tim founded the World Wide Wed consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Berners-Lee talked to BBC Oxford Online about the future of the World Wide Web, attempts by governments to restrict access to the internet and his days at Oxford University.

Now based in the US, Berners-Lee is a director of W3C, a consortium of organisations that aims to develop technologies to enable people to use the web as a forum for exchanging information more easily.

On the future of the web:

Professor Berners-Lee believes that the future of the Web lies in the creation of a Semantic Web.

It's a concept that's difficult to describe, but he says that originally the concept of the Web was difficult to convey to people - no-one was very excited about the idea of following a hypertext link.

A Semantic Web is one in which all the information can easily be extracted and processed by computers. This will mean that vast resources of information can be used in a much more efficient manner.

At present, much of the information on the Web is "marked-up" with HTML, which just tells your browser how to display the information, not what the information is. Human users are currently needed to extract sense from the Web, but in the future computers will be able to interpret and process information contained in the Semantic Web.

listenListen to Professor Berners-Lee discussing the Semantic Web

On government restriction of access to the Web:

quoteMuch the easiest thing [for governments] to do is to install the Internet . . . without any filters. It's very effective and fast and it has a dramatically positive effect, typically on the economy because it gets people communicating better and allows business to run better". quote
Tim Berners-Lee

Professor Berners-Lee says that very centralised political regimes can regard the web as a threat to their power bases because it tends to promote social systems that are decentralised by encouraging individual thought and the creation of sub-groups.

All governments tend to worry about how they deal with the Internet, but any regime that is interested in restricting the amount of information available to its citizens has more to worry about.

listenListen to Professor Berners-Lee discussing this topic

On being a student in Oxford

Professor Berners-Lee is an Honorary Fellow of Queen's College, where he read Physics. He sees links between the study of physics and the creation of the World Wide Web: both involve looking at simple rules about how microsystems work to understand how the macrosystem works.

Professor Berners-Lee enjoyed his time studying at Oxford. He feels that the traditional spirit of knowledge and teaching here is very special.

listenListen to Professor Berners-Lee talking about his time in Oxford

Oxford University awarded Professor Lee an Honorary degree in June 2001, along with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Professor Berners-Lee returned to Oxford in September to give a lecture at the Sheldonian Theatre on the future of e-democracy.

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