Tim Berners-Lee defends net neutrality
Inventor of the world wide web attacks cell phone firms who might wish to limit the mobile web in implicit attack on Google.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has attacked mobile phone providers who seek to question the idea of net neutrality.
Speaking at Nokia World, the manufacturer’s global conference taking place in London this week, Sir Tim said web developers “don’t have to pay money to every cell phone operator to make sure users can get to a website and that is really, really important.”
He claimed that “there are a lot of companies who would love to be able to limit what webpages you can see, and governments would love to be able to slow down information going down to particular sites”.
Google’s recent plans on net neutrality have suggested that the fixed line internet should be regulated so that all sites and traffic are treated equally, but the company has suggested that the mobile internet should be left in the hands of providers until it is more developed.
“We can never spend enough time fighting for the neutrality of the underlying network,” said Sir Tim.
He also added, “The moment you let net neutrality go, you lose the web as it is. You lose something essential – the fact that any innovator can dream up an idea and set up a website at some random place and let it just take off from word of mouth.
"You can end up helping humanity and make a profit out of it once you’ve got a domain name.”
Sir Tim also suggested that responsible companies would increasingly develop better ways of using personal information about employees and customers to protect their privacy.
“We’re going to end up having to think about privacy from a different point of view,” he said.
“When you work in many different roles you may see somebody’s CV and there may be some information that you use if you’re working for HR that you don’t share at the office party.
"Or you can know my address for a delivery but I don’t want you to use that information in other ways. We’ll end up building systems that help organisations become accountable.
"Responsible companies will end up building systems that respect users because that’s what’s important for keeping customers.”
Sir Tim has been a staunch defender of net neutrality, online privacy and the value of freely open data since he first founded the web, and he also used his address to Nokia World to suggest that it was possible, through mobile devices, to get the 80pc of the world that has never used the internet online. Nokia’s business focus has increasingly been on developing markets.
Sir Tim called for networks to include low-bandwidth data allowances on all calling packages so that consumers in poorer countries could benefit from the web, rather than being limited to SMS technology.
Speaking to an audience of executives and developers, Sir Tim urged that the web applications of the future “work with all kinds of different devices”.
He said that if developers “do that now, it’s a hope for the future that they will work with devices we haven’t even imagined yet”.
He said that those devices may soon “be able to detect more and more about you – they already know where you are, or even what way up you are if they’re attached to you. In future perhaps they will detect if you’re excited or not, maybe by measuring your heart rate.”