“World Wide Web Thirtieth Birthday”


Dylan Maynard, Reporter

This isn’t the internet that Tim Berners-Lee envisioned when he laid the groundwork for the World Wide Web 30 years ago today. Rather than the free and open online utopia, “The web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division,” he wrote in 2018, “swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.” And, by god, he’s going to fix it — even if he has to break the entire system to do so.

Berners-Lee began developing the Web while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in 1989 as a means of sharing data among the organization’s myriad PC brands and operating systems. “It was designed to be universal,” Berners-Lee told NPR in 2017. The whole point was breaking apart silos.” Berners-Lee even envisioned the internet serving as a means to break down national and cultural barriers, at least once he’d gotten all the computers talking to each other.

“I’ve always believed the web is for everyone,” he wrote last year. “The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world.”

But despite the benefits that the World Wide Web has wrought over the past three decades, it hasn’t shaken out quite the way Berners-Lee was expecting. He’s certainly not comfortable with the growing trend of market consolidation that we’re seeing. “What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,” he argued. “This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”