Tim Berners-Lee says regulation of the Web may be needed


In an open letter to mark the web's 29th birthday, Berners-Lee warned that "power is concentrated" among just a few companies - including Facebook and Google - whose platforms can be manipulated by nefarious forces.

Berners-Lee called on the world of web users to design a web that creates a constructive and supportive environment.

British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989, believes that the problems that tech giants face today have grown beyond their abilities to fix them alone. It has profoundly changed, and that a couple of "powerful platforms" are compressing what used to be a "rich selection of blogs and websites".

We've looked to the platforms themselves for answers.

"A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease.tensions", he wrote.

"There are few solutions to the problems of digital discourse that don't involve huge trade-offs-and those are not choices for Mark Zuckerberg alone to make".

But Berners-Lee believes that the companies which have become the web's gatekeepers can not be relied on to fix the problem, thanks to loyalty to their shareholders rather than society at large.

He says thinking that advertising is the only way to make money online is a myth, and so is the mentality that it's too late to do anything to make real changes.

He also points out that we need to get away from the idea that advertising in the only possible business model, branding it a myth.

It's the same advantage that lets these dominant platforms hog up more user data, giving them the competitive advantage to stay on top, which, according to Berners-Lee, is why we can expect the world wide web to become far less innovative in the next 20 years.

He wants a meeting of people from "business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and academia" to come together and try to right the ship.

Lastly, Berners-Lee believes there needs to be a greater discussion about the web and how it can be improved.

"Unsurprisingly, you're more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, live in a rural area or a low-income country, or some combination of the above", writes the 62-year old inventor of the internet, hinting that we need to close the digital divide that seems to be deepening, dividing people who have internet access from those who do not. The target has been set - the United Nations recently adopted the Alliance for Affordable Internet's threshold for affordability: 1GB of mobile data for less than 2 percent of average monthly income. In the extreme case of Zimbabwe, 1GB data cost 45 percent of the average income. "If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042". That's an entire generation left behind. At the Web Foundation, we are ready to play our part in this mission and build the web we all want.