“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
Some say that scientific discoveries do not depend on individuals; that, in a way, science moves forward no matter what; that if something is not discovered today due to obstructions, it will necessarily be discovered in the future by someone else. The theory of evolution is an obvious example of this, with Darwin hiding his revelations in a drawer for 20 years until someone else reached to the same conclusions with independent research. It can be then seen as true that science evolves on its own, and if the Church had effectively silenced Galileo someone else would eventually prove heliocentrism later on. Well, either way, we should all feel very lucky that it was Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, who decided to reject the idea that a governmental or commercial control of the internet was inescapable, and did everything he could to provide the product of his intellect for free to everyone, without ever claiming personal profit for it.
Tim found himself in CERN in the ‘80s. There, he saw a difficulty in the international communication and cooperation among researchers, since not all of them used the same operating system or programming language. So, through his own initiative, he took on, as a secondary field of research and for his personal use originally, to finding a solution for this problem and allow scientists around the world to share their findings with ease and speed. His boss considered his plan to be “vague, but interesting”, and approved it. Thus, in 1989, Lee combined already existing technologies, such as hypertext and the internet (which originates from research by the American government in the ‘60s) and invented new ones, such as http and uri (a form of uri is the url), in order to create a set of protocols for the communication, storing and retrieving of documents, which he named World Wide Web (or WWW). In 1991, an open Web received its first users and the next year the first browser was created, capable to scan through and present documents stored in the WWW.
He describes it like this: “If the Web is made of trucks, then the Internet is the road”.
Lee made his invention freely available, without applying a patent or asking for copyrights, and kept working through various organizations to guarantee free access to the Web for everyone, and to ensure web neutrality against efforts to control it by governments or businesses.
With the help of Michael Dertouzos, he founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and thanks to George Metakides this new community obtained dual headquarters in MIT and CERN, as Lee wanted. W3C aims at improving the quality of the Web through education, software development, promoting its use in several areas and by offering an open platform to discuss it.
In 2009, he started the promotion of Linked Data, a term that describes a systematic method of common distribution of data by individuals, businesses and organizations, for its wider utilization. Beyond the data being presented directly to the users, this method broadens its use by computers, resulting in a dynamic connection and providing queries among differing sources of data.
In 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Web’s invention, Lee promoted the creation of a Magna Carta for the Web, so that every country might issue a “declaration of rights” concerning the intenet. He hopes this will be supported by organisms, businesses and government officials. We must realize, he believes, that if we want an open society and cultural variety, we must include the Web in our plans from now on. The Magna Carta will contain issues such as freedom of speech, responsible anonymity, copyright and a respect for private data.
In 2012 he appeared in the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics in London, where he keyed the phrase, for all to see, “this is for everyone”.