The open web is something I think about often—usually with some fear and trepidation. For the past decade, the open web has been under increasing attack. The community, connections, and creativity that made the web so amazing have been replaced by groupthink, bots, and blandness. Nearly every day, it feels like we’re losing a little more of the open web.
A lot of people try to do something to maintain what’s good about the web. I like to think that I do, too. We write about the web, standards, accessibility, and community. We talk to each other. I usually end up lecturing or ranting to my family about the danger in which we find ourselves and the web. But it’s hard to keep up the fight, especially when you’re facing monoliths like Google and Facebook. What hope do a relatively small number of people have when defending against these behemoths?
That’s why I was heartened to see the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, tweet storm about his own fears and his hope for the future of the web. It’s reassuring to see that someone so entangled with the web—the creator of the whole damned thing—has similar feelings. But it’s even more reassuring to see that he still hasn’t given up the fight.
It’s going to be a hard fight, but a worthwhile one. Even when it seems like a small thing in our personal and professional lives, standing up for openness, access, inclusion, and diversity on the web can make a big difference. If enough people do that, it scales. It can change the world.
Just some random thoughts, but I wanted to write them down for future reference when I feel like the web is coming crashing down. Here are his tweets for posterity, too.
This is a serious moment for the web’s future. But I want us to remain hopeful. The problems we see today are bugs in the system. Bugs can cause damage, but bugs are created by people, and can be fixed by people. 1/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
I can imagine Mark Zuckerberg is devastated that his creation has been abused and misused. (Some days I have the same feeling #justsaying) 2/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
I would say to him: You can fix it. It won’t be easy but if companies work with governments, activists, academics and web users we can make sure platforms serve humanity. 3/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
General rules for us all: Any data about me, wherever it is, is mine and mine alone to control. If you are given the right to use data for one purpose, use it for that purpose alone. 4/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
If you have access to data for research purposes, it is REALLY IMPORTANT that you ONLY uses it for research purposes. So much important science and medicine depends on that data. 5/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
My message to all web users today is this: I may have invented the web, but you make it what it is. And it’s up to all of us to build a web that reflects our hopes & fulfils our dreams more than it magnifies our fears & deepens our divisions. 6/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
What can web users do? Get involved. Care about your data. It belongs to you. If we each take a little of the time we spend using the web to fight for the web, I think we’ll be ok. Tell companies and your government representatives that your data and the web matter. 7/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018
And to every digital rights organisation large and small, to every journalist investigating the impact of data and the web on our world - thank you. Keep fighting for the web we want. The web will not realise its potential without you. #oneweb #foreveryone 8/9— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 22, 2018