- World wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he was “devastated” by recent abuses of the web, in an interview with Vanity Fair.
- He is working on a new platform, named Solid, to re-decentralise the internet and take power away from monopolies like Google and Facebook.
- He still has hope that the internet can become a something that serves humanity well.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1989 invented the worldwide web, has spoken to Vanity Fair about seeing his invention twisted into something that’s bad for humanity.
“I was devastated,” Berners-Lee told Vanity Fair’s Katrina Brooker about recent internet scandals, such as Russian interference in the US election and Cambridge Analytica harvesting the data of 87 million Facebook users.
“We demonstrated that the web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done, and failed in many places,” Berners-Lee said.
He sees the increasingly centralised web as the main problem, monopolised by huge tech companies like Facebook and Google. It is this centralisation which he claims, “ended up producing-with no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform – a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.”
It is not the first time Berners-Lee has bemoaned the events of 2016, when Russian activists allegedly set up fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter to support Donald Trump’s campaign for president. In an interview with Bloomberg in April 2017, Berners-Lee said: “I have to say that 2016 really changed my attitude.”
But Berners-Lee isn’t sitting by and despairing. At the moment he is working on Solid, a platform designed to re-decentralise the internet and give individuals control over their own data.
“There are people working in the lab trying to imagine how the web could be different. How society on the web could look different. What could happen if we give people privacy and we give people control of their data,” Berners-Lee said. “We are building a whole eco-system.”
His work on Solid gives Berners-Lee some hope for the future of the internet. “It’s under the radar, but working on it in a way puts back some of the optimism and excitement that the ‘fake news’ takes out,” he said.
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