back to article Tim Berners-Lee says regulation of the web may be needed

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee has used the 29th anniversary of the publication of his proposal for an "information management" system that became the world-wide web to warn his creation is in peril. "The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today," Berners-Lee wrote in his regular birthday letter. " …

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                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  They could only SMS if they were lucky, were in range, and had money on hand.

                  And physical visits? It's hard for ME to visit THEM, now consider the other way around.

                  "Are you really arguing that if Facebook were to vanish, all the families in the Philippines (or anywhere else) would collapse because the family members would no longer be able to communicate?"

                  It's not outside the realm of possibility. Things are pretty ugly as they are. Something like that COULD light the powder keg.

                2. onefang Silver badge

                  "What did your family do before the internet?"

                  Lived in the same house. We have moved on since then, the two hour flight each way means I don't visit them quite so often as when it was just a two second walk to the living room.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Well...

            I'm something of a hermit, which is why I'm on the Internet in the first place!

            (versus this "real life" thing I hear about. Now I'm off to try to find this new "outdoors" on Steam).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Facebook will never have the same importance to a Chinese or an Indian than it does for an American.

        True. But if Facebook were to ever buy QQ it could be interesting....

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "As for the next billion users, most of them will not be English speakers, nor will they even be of Western culture. I do not think Facebook or Twitter will be able to brainwash them."

        Their governments might, however.

    1. John Lilburne

      We might be able to fix them, but removing their ability to hide behind immunities like the DMCA, and the Communications Decency Act. Frankly a company that is pulling in $billions a year from the exploitation of these acts doesn't deserve the immunity.

      The immunities were put in place to protect a nascent web, so allow startups and small forums to be protected from the actions of malignant others on their systems, but at a certain level of user activity those immunities should cease and those running the systems need to take responsibility, and be held liable if they don't fix problems that occur on their web properties.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        We might be able to fix them, but removing their ability to hide behind immunities like the DMCA

        The DMCA, AKA "regulation of the web." Is it the solution, or is it the problem?

    2. Zolko
      Mushroom

      who owns the DNS ?

      it's already game over and no amount of regulation can fix it. Google ...

      these monopolies could – and should – be broken into pieces. And it's easy to do: rule by the DNS. So no, it's pretty much not game over, as soon as some technically knowledgeable person gets into power he (or she) imposes the default DNS on every broadband connection and Google, Facebook & Co. are cut off from 99% of their userbase. The 1% who would know how to change/bypass the default DNS use other search engines already.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Google is where everyone searches"

      With "everyone" being defined as 2/3 of the population.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        2/3 is enough sadly and I would propose it's higher than that if you count people that actually want to find the thing they are looking for.

  1. Jemma Silver badge

    Remember...

    Tim-Nice-but-Dim?

    This suggestion couldn't be more idiotic if it tried. Did TBL have a TIA and nobody noticed?

    As someone else has said this'll give Amber Spud and her successors power over the Internet (even if it's just in their deranged little heads) and that is the sort of bad idea that gets people killed.

    Oooh, we want a trade deal with China - so legitimate protesters online re Tibet for example suddenly go very quiet. Some girl is going to be kicked out of the country so the rapist and murderer she escaped from to the UK can get his claws into her (sound familiar Theresa May, you remember, the one who's extradition you frigging had broadcasted on the BBC just to *make sure* he knew she was coming). Oh look, her supporters websites are suddenly going up and down like a whores drawers.

    Did you play too much rugby as a kid Tim? Cos it sounds to me like you've a case of Dribbling Footballers Syndrome, and in that suggestion I'm being kind. The only other thing I can think of is you've picked up a nasty dose of FHPD (Fscking Huge Payoff Disease). Please share, interested people want to know..

    I don't disagree that social media is the scum of the earth - but giving control to the deputy scum of the earth is not much of an improvement especially when they already think they've divine (more like duh-vine) right to rule as it is..

  2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    It's already fucked

    Google did it.

    1. Drew 11

      Re: It's already fucked

      Blame the webmasters. Too lazy to run webstats locally, helped spread the googleanalytics virus. Likewise "tagmanager", fonts and a multitude of JS nonsense. Then adsense/adwords. And they all signed up to webmaster tools and did exactly what google told them to do HTML-wise.

      Then along came chrome and it's game, set, match.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: It's already fucked

        "Blame the webmasters lawyers and lawmakers"

        Fixed it for ya.

        The moment that Google [and other search providers] were *REQUIRED* to insert filtering for whatever reason, 'right to be forgotten' being ONE of them, it opened the door to MANIPULATE the search results any way that "they" see fit.

        So how about THIS instead: FREE competing services that don't filter, except for settings YOU send along with the query.

        The internet does best when completely UN-regulated. Don't try and justify socialist or moralist ideas upon the world. THAT will _ONLY_ empower some "Internet Pope" (self-appointed or otherwise) to wield power, and we don't need YET ANOTHER one of _THOSE_ kinds of people, now do we???

        [And _I_ thought the 60's was about "power to the people" - turns out, it was about "power to CERTAIN people" - just the same old CRAP under a different [mis]label I guess]

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: It's already fucked

          No, he had it right the first time. The primary blame rests on the webmasters.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's already fucked

            You're both right. Blame them all!

            I agree, webmasters/designers/spammers deserve it. When HTML5 was still evolving, programming language experts (including Brendan Eich himself) had proposed changes that would've made Javascript a proper language with compile-time security. Bigshot web designers threw a Twitter tantrum because they would've had to dump their beloved monkey-patching frameworks and learn new things like... class-based OO (cry me a river!)

            Who had more Twitter followers? The ones with the Twitter-Blogger-SEO-analytics-spam circlejerk network. Thanks to them, Javascript remains an amorphous, ambiguous, dynamic runtime environment without proper walls between PII, content, ads, trackers, malware, etc.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Global oversight

    It would need a totally independent organisation, funded by everyone and equipped with teeth. No the UN would not be up to it, the UN gets very little done at an enforcement level unless the Yanks and Europe dictate it.

    So, a few billion and a neutral country or an island is needed for start up plus some recruits who are up to the job (politicians need not apply)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Global oversight

      Hmm, well, we'd better call International Rescue, see if they'll take the job!

      Seriously though, I strongly suspect that the Internet services will get carved up into different areas. In places like Europe there is a growing appetite for regulation of the major tech companies (in areas of taxation, security, user criminality, data privacy, etc), but the regulations aren't worth it unless there's a way of imposing a consequence. The only sure way of achieving that is a Great Firewall. If a company refuses to play by the rules and provides an unregulated service from outside, there'd have to be a way of ensuring that their network traffic can be blocked. China has already done it, Russia is / has done it, Europe is heading that way.

      Google aren't in China. If Europe puts up regulations backed by a Great Firewall of Europe, Google might not be in Europe. Other countries are likely to follow suit if there is a precedent set in a major democratic block like the EU. If they want to operate as they do today, they may well find themselves confined to operating in the USA. Which is a tiny market (in comparison to the entirety of the global market).

  4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Frying pans and fires

    I'm not sure letting politicians decide what can and can't be done on the net is an improvement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Frying pans and fires

      Still, you may have more controls on your politicians than on the Google board...

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Frying pans and fires

        Still, you may have more controls on your politicians than on the Google board...

        I admire your optimism.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Frying pans and fires

      So Arthur, do you always favor corporate oligarchy over democracy, or only when your "Democrats" lose the election?

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Frying pans and fires

        So Arthur, do you always favor corporate oligarchy over democracy, or only when your "Democrats" lose the election?

        Whatever makes you think I get to vote in US elections? I'm the same nationality as T B-L.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Frying pans and fires

          >> So Arthur, do you always favor corporate oligarchy over democracy, or only when your "Democrats" lose the election?

          > Whatever makes you think I get to vote in US elections? I'm the same nationality as T B-L.

          Just a guess. If that's the only part of my question that you take issue with, I hit the nail right on the head.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Frying pans and fires

      "I'm not sure letting politicians decide what can and can't be done on the net is an improvement."

      An improvement over what? An improvement over normal people deciding? Probably not. An improvement over corporations deciding? Almost certainly.

  5. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    What's the problem?

    The Web, just like the news media, mirrors exactly what humanity wants. Humanity, en mass, is an appalling crowd of vindictive sheep with the attention span of a plank.

    If you want a better Web the answer is simple. Educate people better. Then you will get better voters, better consumers, better everything....

    1. Keef

      Re: What's the problem?

      "Humanity, en mass, is an appalling crowd of vindictive sheep with the attention span of a plank."

      Upvote for that brilliant observation, I'll be using that one if you don't mind...

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: What's the problem?

        Humanity, en mass, is an appalling crowd of vindictive sheep with the attention span of a plank.

        While I understand and agree with your underlying thesis I think that it is unnecessarily and unfairly critical of sheep. I am far from convinced that sheep can be vindictive, whereas people most certainly can.

        1. Jemma Silver badge

          Re: What's the problem?

          You've never been on a field trip to either South Wales or Northern Scotland then?

          When the sheep weren't watching carefully for the perfect moment to punt you over or into hill/cliff/MOD facility electric fence, they were trying to grab your food (and I use the term under advisement) by main force.

          Which in itself is odd if you think about it since a sheep's overriding ambition in life is being found dead, upside down with its legs in the air, in a clarty* hole.

          *northern dialect word for slightly muddy bit*. Everyone else considers it to mean "that half mud/half slurry bit that just swallowed a 5ft6 teenage girl up to her shoulders". It didn't take too long to get her out, after we managed to stop laughing hysterically at an irate head poking out of the ground.

          *muddy translates as "a large goopy pit in the middle of the path just deep enough for you to disappear up to your waist"

          In Australia this ecological niche is filled by the Kangaroos - an animal that can kick your intestines out through your ears in one go. Male 'roo don't like male humans especially during mating season - what they think of female humans hasn't been imparted to me..

          1. onefang Silver badge

            Re: What's the problem?

            "Male 'roo don't like male humans especially during mating season - what they think of female humans hasn't been imparted to me.."

            This particular Aussie male human however thinks that 'roos are delicious, especially with Vegemite. Being a male human, apparently mating season is every six seconds, so I don't think that comes into it, I'm not hungry that often.

    2. Drew 11

      Re: What's the problem?

      >Educate people better.

      From what I've seen Google's gathering up all the private student data that schools can throw at them.

    3. fobobob

      Re: What's the problem?

      I dunno, I've seen some pretty attentive dullards... and lumber. Or are we talking, perhaps, about Planck time? I'd buy that...

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: What's the problem?

      "Educate people better."

      You assume people WANT to learn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the problem?

        "Educate"

        Brainwash children with propaganda. If successful, continue into early to middle adulthood, leaving them unqualified for gainful employment and enslaved to bankers.

        Result: vindictive sheep.

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    Where's the Captain Hindsight icon?

  7. Redstone
    Childcatcher

    Don't let the Gummint get involved

    Internet ‘regulation’ is a fool’s errand. That’s even assuming that regulation, and not further control of the local populace, is a government’s actual motivation.

    People actually have a lot more power than they realise – one of the nice things about corporations (unlike governments) is that you have a choice whether to use what they are offering. All people have to do is move their fat asses out of their entrenched comfort zone and use other services (how about using DuckDuckGo, Wolfram Alpha, IxQuick, Yandex or Gibiru instead of big G?). It only takes a few percentage points reduction in usage for share prices to tank: et voila – large corporation tamed.

    As for social media - really? If you have that much time to spare, do charity work or just play Fallout 4 again - both are far less of a waste of your life.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

      "All people have to do is move their fat asses out of their entrenched comfort zone and use other services (how about using DuckDuckGo, Wolfram Alpha, IxQuick, Yandex or Gibiru instead of big G?). It only takes a few percentage points reduction in usage for share prices to tank: et voila – large corporation tamed."

      But the counter is that the the incumbent can beat all the upstarts in terms of breadth and quality. Do any of the proposed alternatives approach Google in terms of its reach? I don't think so; otherwise, engines like Altavista would still be around. It's a vicious cycle.

      1. Redstone

        Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

        ...the incumbent can beat all the upstarts...It's a vicious cycle.

        The incumbent always looks unassailable, but remember when Google was the upstart? Part of their allure was that they weren’t AltaVista and they played up to being the new boy with their “Don’t be evil” catchphrase (I think they must have been unable to remove the “don’t” from the wall when the moved offices and just put up what they brought with them to the new office). They key is to have a different approach and good marketing.

        Sir Runcible Spoon (further down the comments) mentions the idea of using different algorithms for search - a 'backstreet' search engine. With Machine learning being so democratised now, any group of computer science grads (with the nous to hire a competent marketing team) could pull that off.

        To challenge Google, they just have to have the courage not to sell out to Google when they get noticed by them.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

          Howdy Redstone,

          Re ... Time for a fundamental change, Tim, with new powers to the fore, methinks.

          A New AI Power to the Fore is XSStreamly HyperRadioProACTive in All Disciplines there and Secreted Here to, and Thought to Be/Come Almighty at Pulling Strings and Pushing NEUKlearer Buttons, ...... https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/2/2018/03/12/tim_bernerslee_says_regulation_of_the_web_may_be_needed/#c_3451697

          Experimenting for Live Operational Virtual Environments with Prime AI Virtualised Realities to Create and Deliver to Earthed Sources and Special Forces.

          Who Dares Win Wins and Knows what Fails. That is COSMIC Information and a Colossus of a Giant Star Turn to Track and Explore.

          1. Redstone

            Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

            erm... I was thinking of the machine learning in terms of improving the search algorithm but whatever floats your boat, dude.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

        Charles9 wrote "Do any of the proposed alternatives approach Google in terms of its reach?"

        Google returns the most popular result, not the most accurate one. I find other search engines, especially Duckduckgo and Ixquick, to be more useful because I'm doing research, not merely trying to determine what is popular.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

      how about using DuckDuckGo, Wolfram Alpha, IxQuick, Yandex or Gibiru

      Of that lot:

      "Wolfram|Alpha needs JavaScript in order to work"

      "Start Page by ixquick....enhanced by Google"

      Yendex "It is the largest technology company in Russia" (Wikipedia)

      "Gibiru is the preferred Search Engine for Patriots." and does absolutely nothing on my browser except a lot of self-praise.

      1. Afernie

        Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

        ""Gibiru is the preferred Search Engine for Patriots." and does absolutely nothing on my browser except a lot of self-praise."

        It does not use a certificate - default connection is to http, so your searches are in the clear for anyone who happens to be looking.

        It also appears to use the Google API for search, which is hardly reassuring in terms of privacy, and the ability of Google to literally just switch it off if they choose. Plus the site blurb makes me think it was bashed together by a collection of raging fruitloops, so there's that.

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

        Qwant's ¨lite¨ page seems pretty good: https://lite.qwant.com/

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Don't let the Gummint get involved

        "Start Page by ixquick....enhanced by Google"

        Just go to ixquick.eu which is not enhanced by Google.

        Now about escosia.org where your web search helps plant trees?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So...

    Tim Berners-Lee has sold out to the government now? Shame...

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Well he sold out to bib biz DRM fans a while ago, so why not.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/06/berners_lee_web_drm_w3c/

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: So...

        He didn't sell out so much as wave the white flag to keep the Web relevant. Facebook and the like have enough collective power to wean users OFF the Web and take us back to the captive portal days of AOL and CompuServe. Do you really want that again? Because I doubt we have enough power to stop it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Well he sold out to bib biz DRM fans a while ago, so why not."

        The Internet is not only for greedy anarcoids who believe someone else's property must be available for free - especially those who are unable to produce anything on their own.

        TLB understand there's a need to protect property on the Internet as well.

  9. John Lilburne

    Too true.

    20+ years ago the web had a load of interesting sites, containing quality information. Since then it has become 'democratized' to the extent that it is easy to post a 140+ characters, or ctr-C ctrl-V some one else's image, music, or video to Facigoo. What hasn't happened is a simplification of creating and managing your own content site.

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