Inventor of the WWW wants a new network

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For Tim Berners-Lee, the Internet has become a place of false news, bias and online abuse. In order for the world wide web (www) to have a digital future, a contract is to be concluded in the future – in which companies, governments , and users participate.

Tim Berners-Lee is disappointed and a little angry. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, he said that the digital future of the Internet is under threat and that the individual user’s ability to act has been lost.

Optimism had also cracked. Instead of communicating free ideas, the opposite is often propagated on the Internet. After the scandals about data abuse and the use of social networks as a place of hatred, he sees fundamental consequences as the only way out.

Von Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the Internet, as we have learned to use and appreciate it today: the World Wide Web as a networked medium with countless websites that anyone can access from anywhere in the world.

His goal in the 1980s was to change and ideally improve people’s lives through the web.

But he is currently questioning his idea and the related question of whether global and digital networking automatically leads to a mutually beneficial understanding for all.

Today’s network has no digital future any more

Berners-Lee entrusted it to the Guardian:

For many years, the feeling prevailed that the wonderful things on the Internet would dominate, and we would have a world with fewer conflicts, more understanding, more and better science and good democracy.

But now people are disillusioned because of all the things in the world that transport the headlines on the net.

A contract – a “Magna Charta” for the Internet – is supposed to help. A basic law that protects the rights of all users – from data abuse, hate messages and censorship.

Berners-Lee’s draft treaty – the final version is to be published in May 2019 – is intended to oblige companies, governments and citizens alike to actively design a better network.

After all, the Internet should continue to serve humanity, science, knowledge ,and democracy, said Berners-Lee.

Magna Charter of the Internet: a law against the evils of the www

In his statement, Berners-Lee addresses the following three key issues:

Access to the network must be expanded and accelerated. Unfortunately, half of the world’s population is unable to consume useful information on the www. Women in particular are left out in many countries.

State-regulated censorship must be stopped. More and more countries are trying to bring Internet access under their control and spy on their fellow countrymen.

A few companies determine the use of the www. Services such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook have a market power on which thousands of companies and billions of users depend. This centralization must be avoided and dissolved.

Whether his initiative and the World Wide Web Foundation he established will bear fruit and the big Internet giants will participate in the further development of the treaty: Even Berners-Lee is not convinced of this.

He also doubts that the dominance of the leading technology companies will have a positive effect on the network community. A break-up is the only sensible solution. History shows that.

An own server: Is this the rescue for the digital future?

Berners-Lee and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on “Solid” (“Social Linked Data”). It is a completely new network that gives users their own data back. The idea behind it is the strict separation of application and data.

The division between services and companies such as Google or Facebook on the one hand and users on the other remains. However, only the user has sovereignty over his own data.

If he wants to share an image on Instagram, he authorizes the image network to access only this one photo. In addition, the user does not upload the image to external servers, but keeps it on his own.

The young Munich start-up Uniki provides support for this. The young Uniki founders Roman Leuprecht and Matthias Bollwein could offer a “Pod” (Personal Online Data Store) – i.e. a personal server – as recommended by Berners-Lee.

This server stores all kinds of personal data such as documents, calendars, photos and health data absolutely securely. This is made possible by an access key that can only be created by the user himself directly after switching on.

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