The internet should be free and open to all

The World Wide Web has changed the way many of us work and do business, usually for the better. But for all that has been achieved, more is needed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2016, 1:29am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2016, 4:07am

This month, 25 years ago, the world was introduced to a revolutionary way of sharing information that changed our lives. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, made the web server and browser he created available for public access. But few outside academia and science were aware of the developments and only with open-source software two years later was there widespread attention. A generation on, with every imaginable fact at our fingertips and the web teeming with social interaction, shopping, financial services and apps, it is impossible to imagine getting by without.

There is debate as to when the anniversary should be celebrated. August 6 and 23, 1991, was when details of a basic browser and server were made publicly available through internet newsgroups. But March 12, 1989, was when Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for a distributed information system to his employer, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as Cern, and a working version was up and running by Christmas the following year. Cern put the source code into the public domain on April 30, 1993, ensuring an open standard and an explosion in the number of servers and users. None of this would have been possible without computers, networking and the innovations of people like the father of fibre optics, Charles Kuen Kao, Hong Kong’s only Nobel prizewinner.

Scientists work towards improving lives and the internet is perhaps the best example. It has an impact on much of our everyday existence, providing easily accessible information, entertainment, opportunities and ways to carry out tasks. It has changed the way many of us work and do business, usually for the better. We should not miss opportunities to celebrate and honour those behind so important an innovation.

But for all that has been achieved, more is needed. Berners-Lee advocates an internet that is free and open to all, no matter where in the world they live. Half of humanity still has to be connected, all languages and cultures should be treated equally, standards have to be set and restrictions minimised.

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