back to article Berners-Lee: Facebook 'threatens' web future

Tim Berners-Lee has dubbed Facebook a threat to the universality of the world wide web. Next month marks the twentieth anniversary of the first webpage – served up by Berners-Lee at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva – and in the December issue of Scientific American, he celebrates the uniquely democratic nature of his …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Then came the god virus

    And smited every fing on the web.......

    Then no one had nuffing and every one was doomed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Wrong Character

      Methinks you have the wrong character, ALL that is EVIL is DOOMED & the Web will SERVE GOD & mankind as it should! :)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "Threat To The Internet"

    I guess some other "intellectuals" wring their hands about "threat to the <insert your language here> from SMS". "youngsters lose language skills due to sms use". bla bla.

    "Walled Gardens" have problems and limitations of their own, which will eventually kill them. Here's a list of Dead Or Sick Gardens:











    All of these systems/standards were based on the principle that a single entity would control it and earn "lots of money" from it. The reality is that open systems/standards flourish and grow stronger by the day. Exactly because a single entity controls/controlled them, these gardens are a failure. Innovation is/was limited, the pricing models are/were restrictive or excessive.

    Thriving Open Standards are:

    + HTML

    + HTTP

    + TCP

    + LINUX

    + C/C++

    + PDF

    + SQL

    + ASN.1

    + SSL/TLS

    + GTK


    + SMTP

    + XML

    I am confident someone will create a standard way of sharing/controlling social networking information and people will leave facebook, because they are tired of being shackled by Zuckerberg or His Highness, The Steve Of Absurdia. Network effects, reuse effects and competition are all extremely strong forces behind open systems/standards. Even Microsoft had to bow to the standard of Javascript and XML. Ultimately, Apple and Facebook will either yield to standards or they will simply go the way of AOL.

    Very basic Economic Forces will effect this.

    1. Steen Hive

      @Economic forces

      "Very basic Economic Forces will effect this."

      Undoubtedly, but what has that to do with "thriving open standards" Every "thriving open standard" you describe was either socially-engineered by committee, or a proprietary creation standardised by social-engineering.

      In general, open standards allow economic forces to work properly, not the converse.

  3. JaitcH

    I appreciated TBL's viewpoint; our corporate decision justified

    We have just completed a POS for a service company. It involves providing drawings and text for their technicians to service equipment displayed on a 7" pad.

    One sticking point was whether to provide the access through a pad App or a browser. After several meetings it was decided to go with a browser - and TBL succinctly stated the reasons why our decision was correct - even though we didn't express it coherently.

    Another of our teams has just completed a travel guide for VietNam for both pad and smartphone - again browser based. We have the complete map of VN, as well as key tourist cities - street maps, tourist guides, hotel reviews, etc.

    This shows, I believe, careful thought should be given before commissioning yet another App as to the most effective way of presenting content. Browsers, of course, are an escape from Jobs' ring fenced garden.

    Great article, thanks Register!

    1. foo_bar_baz

      You completed what?

      POS? Piece of Shit? Point of Sale?

    2. Horned-Devil

      Yes but if you can't connect

      What good is a browser based travel guide of VietNam? If I'm there and using it, chances are I'm probably going to struggle to get internet access - yet, if I had downloaded a searchable version onto my pad then I can access it as long as I can get power...

      1. Steen Hive

        Connect to

        After installing Apache. Better hope it's not an iPad, then ;-)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Scalability and security

    "Things like HTML, TCP/IP, DNS, etc. were never developed to function in such a complicated, high volume way. Today's Internet was never imagined to grow into such a massive monster that it is now."

    Put HTML (and Flash) to one side for a moment. Those application-layer things are what distinguishes the Web from the Internet. Application layer stuff shouldn't care about the underlying network implementations so long as the data makes it safely and securely from A to B and back. Many of today's underlying problems are mixture of network stuff and application stuff. They're different, but related.

    IP (TCP, whatever), and DNS, and so on, are almost as old as the hills, especially V4. There is of course IPv6, which in its twenty or so years of existence hasn't yet set the world on fire, but does attempt to address scalability and security in some way.

    Before there was IPv6 there was also the OSI networking stuff, which started life as a fresh look at addressing scalability and security, and also interoperability, conformance, and a whole load of other actually quite useful stuff (end to end secure, tamper-proof, and authenticated multi-media email, for just one example).

    But for whatever reason, the Internet industry prefers to stick with its teletype-era email protocols (SMTP and POP3) and try and band-aid their fundamentally unfixable flaws and the fundamental flaws of the underlying layers, rather than admit that the world has changed and so should the protocols.

    One of the reasons OSI didn't catch on back then was it needed more compute power than the near-teletype-era SMTP/POP and friends stuff. That's no problem these days. Another reason was the authentication issue; who's going to manage the authentication, the detractors said? Well, guess what, we still need an answer to that, and if we had one, there'd be a lot less junk email, and maybe there might even be fewer Windows exploits?

    IPv6 wasn't the only option. Maybe it still isn't. Just sayin', like.

  5. Mectron

    not so hard to prevent....

    any company who:

    censor/throttle the internet in any way for any reason is instantly shutdown

    anyone who is not a GOVERMENT law agency who snoop on internet traffic (aka: MPAA/RIAA/ISP) is instantly shutdown

    you not that hard...

    but the bigest threat of internet freedom is ILLEGAL GEOLACATION. AKA: illegally preventing someone from accessing contents base of location. (AKA: netflix, hulu etc,,,) because there is ONLY ONE MARKET: EARTH.)

  6. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    FB users think of it like this...

    If I walked up to you in the pub on Friday night, in front of your mates, I asked you for your date of birth, where you live, what you did last night, where you went last week, a picture of your wife/girlfriend/kids, where you're going tomorrow, what you bought in TESCO/Argos/COMET this morning.

    Would you give me any of this information or would you and your mates tell me to F-off and even call the management over say that a weirdo was asking loads for loads of info? Yet you will post all this in full view of millions of people worldwide.

    TBL has not denounced FB as such, but has said that they are selfish and only consider the financial gain of collecting all this info for their own purposes. For all Zuckerberg's guff about "sharing and being open" he is still a flim-flam man running a hall of mirrors to collect the info he needs to pass to the ad-men.

    TBL is one of the few tech people worth listening to. He seems to live by the old adage "If you have nothing worth saying, shut up until you do.", something Mr Zuckerberg would be advised to learn. Zuckerberg may have changed the world, however TBL changed the world in a way likened to Alexander Graham Bell, while Zuckerberg has done it in a more Ghengis Khan way.

    1. Pandy06269

      Other way around

      "If I walked up to you in the pub on Friday night, in front of your mates, I asked you for your date of birth, where you live, what you did last night, where you went last week, a picture of your wife/girlfriend/kids, where you're going tomorrow, what you bought in TESCO/Argos/COMET this morning."

      I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think the analogy is the wrong way around.

      It's more akin to someone grabbing a megaphone and announcing the above information while standing on top of their car in a 3-lane motorway traffic jam - nobody asked for it but you'll make sure they hear it anyway, and there are plenty of people $hitless who'll listen to it just for something to do.

  7. bradbox

    Let's all have a go at Facebook...

    I don't remember Berners-Lee complaining that Compuserve was a walled garden or a silo. For several years you couldn't even email out of it (which Facebook does allow).

    Why wasn't everyone complaining then?

    1. Rob Davis

      Much less users, perhaps the answer to your question?

      500 million facebook users vs how many compuserve users?

    2. Al Jones

      Why complain when you can do something about it.

      Compuserve wasn't trying to keep it's users out of the Internet - it was built (and successful) before the Internet was widely available, and it became a gateway to the internet for many people. And e-mail to and from addresses was available long before Berners Lee invented the world wide web.

      I'd imagine that's why everyone wasn't complaining about Compuserve back then (unlike AOL, which was critcised for it's "walled garden" approach for a long time.

  8. Magnus_Pym

    "Oh god you don't still facebook do you"

    This is what facebook know will happen eventually. It's a fashion thing. The fashion will move on to the next big thing. Maybe not today or tomorrow but sometime.

    They have to try to wall people in to fend off the inevitable for as long as possible.

    1. Don Buchholz

      Internet fashion ...

      Really! I'm going to sign up for that MySpace account, soon!

      Facebook/MySpace, etc., they're mostly garbage. Entertainment is the primary value, but, living in America where movie and sports stars are paid millions of $$$ annually, there is great value in embracing that old canard "there's a sucker born every minute."

  9. Just Thinking


    He was very sexy in the Avengers. Very funny in AbFab.

    Not so sure about all that campaigning stuff for the Gurkas. Now he wants to re-introduce Latin to the curriculum?

    Just because he did something good once doesn't make him right about everything.

    1. Rob Davis

      agree +1

      ...need a few more esteemed people to stand up and say the same/agree to build momentum on resisting the threats that he describes.

  10. Rob Davis
    Thumb Up

    Great article, Does TBL have a Facebook fan page, or an unofficial one?

    ...and if his speech can be posted there, we can all 'Like' it then :) Unlikely I would guess!

    Great article, I agree with everything he says.

  11. Paul 37

    Vaclav Havel

    Disjointed, often illogical society takes pristine system and makes it disjointed and often illogical in order to get any use out of it.

  12. Scott Broukell

    but ......

    i thought that academics and scientists had got their own network back again - The Grid. After the first one got out of the box and nerds started using it randomly. So what's the fuss about TBL ?

    Humins created the internet, so the internet is going to reflect humin things, like the dog-eat-dog stuff mentioned earlier. Wow, who'd a thunk it.

  13. Harry Tuttle

    TBL means "open standards" NOT "give all your personal data away"

    He means you are not able to dump some sort of a file e.g XML, of all the data sites like facebook hold about you, so that you can analyse / import it into another system.

    i.e there is no open standard for exporting this sort of data so users are increasingly locked in.

    Sites that hold your data have no interest in creating such a standard as they jealously guard the data they have collected about you, and only provide you with a small subset of it: Not enough to transplant your custom elsewhere, should you feel like it.

    I feel sure he does not mean "any third party should be able to access all the data they hold on an individual, on request." Access does NOT mean a by third party, but the individual the data relates to.

  14. Don Mitchell


    Mark Zuckerberg: accidental billionaire

    Tim Berners-Lee: accidently wrote useful software

    At least Zuckerberg had some vision about how important his program might be, as opposed to thinking it would let CERN put its physics papers online.

    1. James Butler
      Thumb Up


      What a monumentally ignorant statement!! You are to be commended, sir. I don't think I shall see the like, again.

      Your comment is akin to saying "The guy who first put an ashtray into a car: accidental genius; Henry Ford; accidentally developed modern industrialized society."

      Again, my hearty congratulations on exceeding the bounds of expected idiocy with your comment. Absolutely brilliant!


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