Thoughts on the Internet freedom, online human rights and economics.

12 of March was the 29th anniversary of the World Wide Web and 2018 is a Rubicon of some kind: for the first time in the history of mankind, more than half of us would be connected to the Internet.

internet access per 100 habitants

Internet users per 100 habitants, according to International Telecommunication Union

Palm branch of it belongs to a man, who invented the most popular hypertext implementation – WorldWideWeb – and taught us to walk through links. “Hypertext” is an ability to walk through links, from one page to another, and it’s also the first two letters of HTML – “Hypertext Markup Language”. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, the director of World Wide Web Consortium, computer science engineer and professor, and also officially the knight of British Empire, invented an HTTP protocol, used for client-server communication at CERN and later everywhere in our browsers.

Tim Berners-Lee in 2005, author Uldis Bojārs, CC BY-SA 2.0

Tim Berners-Lee in 2005, photo: Uldis Bojārs, CC BY-SA 2.0

In his open letter at The Guardian, Tim Berners-Lee argues on how today’s digital giants could harm the freedom and progress of our web.

Here’s a short list of his theses:

  • The threats to the web today are real – from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data.
  • The divide between people who have internet access and those who do not is deepening existing inequalities: to be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate.
Children in Himachal Pradesh (India)

Children in Himachal Pradesh (India). Many of them in poor regions can’t have an Internet access. Photo: Siddhant Soni @ Unsplash

  • If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042.
  • In some countries, the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband remains more than 20% of average monthly income.
  • We must support policies and business models that expand access to the world’s poorest through public access solutions, such as community networks and public wifi initiatives. We must invest in securing reliable access for women and girls, and empowering them through digital skills training.
  • What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms. This … allows a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.
  • They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent. Add to this the competitive advantage that their user data gives them and we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last.
MSQRD App, acquired by Facebook

MSQRD App, acquired by Facebook

  • The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale.
  • Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them, but they have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good.
  • Two myths currently limit our collective imagination: the myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate.

The Endgadget reminds about Amazon Web Services outage in the beginning of March 2018, which caused many websites to pause their work or maintenance, and Amazon Alexa to go silent or make mistakes for a day.

Amazon Tap device uses Alexa online assistant

Amazon Tap device uses Alexa online assistant. Photo: Daylen, CC BY-SA 4.0

Tim Berners-Lee says we should close the digital divide. The United Nations declared internet access as one of the basic human rights, and stated in 2016 that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online“.

“Let’s assemble the brightest minds from business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and academia to tackle the threats to the web’s future. At the Web Foundation, we are ready to play our part in this mission and build the web we all want. Let’s work together to make it possible.” Tim Berners-Lee

Let’s work together for the better Internet for newcomers and for those experienced! You can learn more about the Digital Equality at webfoundation.org.

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