Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on the 28th anniversary of the World Wide Web

tim berners lee web message 1500
Photo: Paul Clarke
On March 12, the World Wide Web celebrated its 28th birthday — or, more accurately, the 28th anniversary of a proposal for the project that was submitted by its creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. To mark the occasion, Berners-Lee published a message outlining what he views as the three biggest challenges that the web faces today.

The first is the fact that we’ve lost control of our personal data. Today, many internet users exchange their personal information for access to various sites and services, agreeing to contracts tied to pages and pages of terms and conditions.

Berners-Lee argues that there are problems with the way our data is held by companies, out of our sight and out of our control. He ties this practice to governments carryout out surveillance on their citizens, and suggests that it has a negative impact on the internet’s capacity as a setting for free and open debate on important topics.

The second challenge relates to the ongoing spread of misinformation across the internet. Berners-Lee states that a majority of users only visit a handful of websites, so it’s easy for the people in control of those sites to produce content that’s attractive to a captive audience, and implement opinion-influencing bots to “game the system” even further.

The third challenge comes from political advertising on the internet, which Berners-Lee claims is in need of better public understanding and more transparency. He cites a source that suggests that as many as 50,000 variations of ads were served every day on Facebook during the 2016 United States presidential election, which he describes as a “near-impossible situation to monitor.”

He goes on to suggest that some political parties in the U.S. and further afield might be using the internet maliciously, pointing people toward fake news, and spreading different messages among different demographics.

Berners-Lee closes his message by saying that simple solutions won’t address these complex problems, encouraging internet users to work with “gatekeepers” like Google and Facebook, and his team at The Web Foundation, as they attempt to forge the next era of the World Wide Web.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

Here’s how to set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Xbox One

Online privacy is more important now than it's ever been, and gaming is happening online more than ever before. Here's a quick guide on how to set up a VPN for your Xbox One so you game in safe anonymity.
Computing

New Chrome feature aimed at preventing websites from blocking Incognito Mode

A new Chrome feature will prevent websites from blocking Chrome users as they browse using Incognito Mode. The feature is supposed to fix a known loophole that allows websites to detect and block those using Incognito Mode.
Mobile

Need speed? Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon X55, the world’s fastest 5G modem

Qualcomm is preparing for an even faster future: The silicon giant just unveiled a second generation 5G modem for smartphones, promising blistering download speeds as high as 7Gbps.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Computing

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Photography

Luminar’s libraries gain speed, drop need for you to manually import images

Luminar 3 just got a performance boost. Skylum Luminar 3.0.2 has improved speed over December's update, which added the long-promised libraries feature giving editors a Lightroom alternative.
Computing

Keep your portable computer safe and shiny with the best laptop bags for 2019

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Computing

Like to be brand loyal? These tech titans make some of our favorite laptops

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.