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Web Science

Entry 420, on 2006-11-03 at 15:05:16 (Rating 2, Computers)

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has recently warned that if the Internet continues to develop the way it is now, that "bad things" could happen. He's not very specific (at least in the article I read) about what these bad things could be, although he does mention the spread of misinformation and "undemocratic forces".

Its true that the Web, and other Internet services, such as email, do create an easy way to spread misinformation, and possibly undemocratic forces (whatever they might be) but are they really any worse than other information sources? At least on the Web everyone (at least everyone with a web connection to a computer) has a chance to present their opinion. Isn't that democratic? In conventional media only the rich and powerful really have a reasonable chance to publish their ideas.

In my opinion, creating regulations which limit the Internet would be a really bad thing (to borrow Sir Tim's terminology). Not only would regulations limit freedom, innovation, and growth of the 'net, they would probably force some services into countries where the regulations aren't enforced. Maybe Sir Tim was a great and innovative person in the past, but if he's espousing regulation now, he's obviously lost his edge!

On the other hand, he is right when he says we need to study the web phenomenon more carefully and scientifically. He wants universities to research and teach "web science" which is the study of the web from a scientific, technological, and social perspective. That is a good idea, but we shouldn't use the findings as an excuse to stifle what is the most positive technological force we have seen for many years.

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