Twenty-five years ago today, I filed the proposal for what was to become the World Wide Web.
My boss dubbed it ‘vague but exciting’. Luckily, he thought enough of the idea to allow me to quietly work on it on the side.
In the following quarter-century, the Web has changed the world in ways that I never could have imagined. There have been many exciting advances. It has generated billions of dollars in economic growth, turned data into the gold of the 21st century, unleashed innovation in education and healthcare, whittled away geographic and social boundaries, revolutionised the media, and forced a reinvention of politics in many countries by enabling constant two-way dialogue between the rulers and the ruled.
There are a few principles which allowed the web, as a platform, to support such growth. By design, the Web is universal, royalty-free, open and decentralised. Thousands of people worked together to build the early Web in an amazing, non-national spirit of collaboration; tens of thousands more invented the applications and services that make it so useful to us today, and there is still room for each one of us to create new things on and through the Web. This is for everyone.
Today, and throughout this year, we should celebrate the Web’s first 25 years. But though the mood is upbeat, we also know we are not done. We have much to do for the Web to reach its full potential. We must continue to defend its core principles and tackle some key challenges. To name just three:
- How do we connect the nearly two-thirds of the planet who can’t yet access the Web?
- Who has the right to collect and use our personal data, for what purpose and under what rules?
- How do we create a high-performance open architecture that will run on any device, rather than fall back into proprietary alternatives?
There are no easy answers to these, and many other questions. Remember though that the Web was built by all of us, and so we all can, and should, play a role in defining its future.