Way back in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed a project designed to let people work together by combining their knowledge in a global Web of hypertext documents. That project became, of course, the World Wide Web.
From humble beginnings as a WYSIWYG hypertext browser/editor that ran in the NextStep environment, the WWW has changed the world. From a browser today, almost anyone can access nearly any place on the planet, unencumbered by time, space or tariffs.
Over the last 15 years, Berners-Lee has fought to keep his invention open, nonproprietary and free. During his keynote address at the 13th annual International World Wide Web Conference in New York recently, he stressed that it is important to stick to the basic tenets on which the WWW was built.
“The Web is about universality. It is independent of the hardware you are using, of the operating system, of the application software, of the actual network by which you are connected,” Berners-Lee said, adding, “The Web is independent of the language spoken, of the culture, of disability, of the quality of the information and of how developed the country you are from may be.”
For the Web to continue growing, it must remain open to all, not limited to a select few. Open standards let anyone experiment and develop, leading to vibrant competition over the best Web technology—including XML, Web services and, of course, the Internet browser. Over the next 15 years, open standards must continue to provide the platform for innovation.
As the Web evolves, it should, as Berners-Lee originally intended, serve the interests of society. For example, while top-level domains may be needed, we agree with Berners-Lees position that they be added only if they increase accessibility to the Web, not limit the Web to the profit of a few.
Further, as computing devices proliferate in size and shape, content must not be created at the expense of breaking the Web. Organizations and individuals should use tools and standards such as cascading style sheets to build Web pages that are viewable on any device, not just optimized for viewing on a cell phone while rendered indecipherable on a laptop.
Berners-Lee conceived the Web as a common space in which people could share information. He continues to believe that the universality of the Web is essential—that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished. We share that belief.
The success of the Web in only 15 years is amazing. Few of us can imagine doing business, gathering information, shopping or communicating without the Web. It was a vision of openness that brought about this world-changing development. Those who have an interest in the Web—and thats nearly everyone in the world now—should heed Berners-Lees vision of openness. If we do, we can look forward to another amazing 15 years.
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