Tim Berners-Lee criticises Facebook’s ‘walled garden’
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has criticised social networking sites, such as Facebook, for limiting the web’s openness, ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the first webpage.
Writing a piece in the Scientific American journal, entitled Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality, Berners-Lee sought to remind people of the power of the open and democratic web.
He said: “The web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.”
However, he went on to say that the web’s democratic nature and universality was being threatened by some of its “most successful inhabitants” of late.
He specifically criticised Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendster, for limiting the flowing of the freely available information across the web.
"Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph," he writes.
"The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites.
"Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others.
"Yes, your site’s pages are on the web, but your data are not. You can access a web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site."
Facebook is coming under increasing pressure to open up access to its social graph, arguably its most powerful asset.
The site’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, resisted these calls at the Web 2.0 Summit, refusing to commit to a date when Facebook would open up its data set to the rest of the web.
Earlier this month Google banned Facebook, and other companies, from extracting Gmail user data, unless they make their own data available to Google. Facebook has so far refused to cooperate.
Berners-Lee, in his piece, also warned against cable companies which may also prevent information flowing freely on the web.
He writes: “Cable television companies that sell internet connectivity are considering whether to limit their internet users to downloading only the company’s mix of entertainment.”