Dominant platforms have ruined the web, says Berners-Lee

Dominant platforms have ruined the web, says Berners-Lee

Dominant platforms have ruined the web, says Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who first proposed the www bit of the internet that so glues us together now, is once again calling for Something To Be Done about the massive power wielded by the likes of Google and Facebook, even going so far as to suggest legal regulation to reduce their grasp on our eyes.

"The Web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today", Berners-Lee noted.

The social network, along with Google and Twitter, appeared before Congress to answer questions on the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Sir Tim added: "Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them - with each change they make affecting millions of people". The responsibility-and sometimes burden-of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximize profit more than to maximize social good.

In an open letter posted to the World Wide Web Foundation website, Berners-Lee says that the "powerful weight of a few dominant platforms" has compressed the web's selection of blogs and websites that once existed.

Berners-Lee believes the web needs to be more open, rather than users' experiences being defined by the web giants.

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In last year's letter, he lamented the erosion of privacy, the rise of misinformation and the lack of transparency in political advertising online.

That vision is only possible if we get everyone online, and make sure the Web works for people. Europe is trying to be ahead of the game when it comes to tackling "fake news", but so far nobody there has come up with workable solutions, either. He suggests that a regulatory framework could be needed to prevent a handful of companies from "weapon [zing] the web at scale".

These problems have proliferated because of the concentration of power in the hands of a few platforms - including Facebook, Google, and Twitter - which "control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared". Currently, half of the world's population can not access the internet. He also urged supporting policies that help women and the poor to have access to the web, plus the skills to compete in today's digital world. However, in many places, getting online is prohibitively expensive - the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband in Malawi is more than 20 per cent of the average monthly 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", Berners-Lee warned.

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. On both points, we need to be a little more creative. Furthermore, he lays out his desire to have more people involved from across business, tech, government, civil society, the arts, and academia in discussions around the future of the web and not those that control it.

"Today, I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web".

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