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Does the web need a bill of rights?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says yes, we do, if we are going to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created. He spoke of his concerns in a recent Guardian interview:

Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.

He was speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web – the first page of which we shared in the printed program for Web Directions South last year, including that wonderful annotation there at the top from his boss “Vague but exciting …”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee's Information Management Proposal

Hard to believe too that we held our first ever event for people who work on the Web just 15 years after this proposal was published!

Sir Tim Berners-Lee went on to say that the issues of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity have crept up on us.

Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years.

Which I thought was a nice echo to some of the words in this magnificent angry rant by one of our keynotes from Web Directions South last year. Maciej Ceglowski. Maciej’s rant, actually from his recent Webstock presentation, is well worth the read in its entirety, but here’s the bit that especially caught my eye:

What upsets me, what really gets my goat, is that we did it because it was the easiest thing to do. There was no design, forethought, or analysis involved. No one said “hey, this sounds like a great world to live in, let’s make it”. It happened because we couldn’t be bothered.

Making things ephemeral is hard.

Making things distributed is hard.

Making things anonymous is hard.

Coming up with a sane business model is really hard—I get tired just thinking about it.

So let’s take people’s data, throw it on a server, link it to their Facebook profiles, keep it forever, and if we can’t raise another round of venture funding we’ll just slap Google ads on the thing.

“High five, Chad!”

“High five, bro!”

That is the design process that went into building the Internet of 2014.

For myself, the more time I spend in places like Facebook, the more the values of the open web ring true for me, and come into focus as an ideal worth protecting. Oh, and if that means something to you too, don’t forget we have another of the great advocate of the open web doing the closing keynote at Web Directions Code: don’t miss Tantek Çelik’s return to Australia this May!

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Web Directions South is the must-attend event of the year for anyone serious about web development

Phil Whitehouse General Manager, DT Sydney