On Monday, November 5, Tim Berners-Lee unveiled a document called “The Case for the Web” which outlines principles to protect and enhance the web’s future, as well as craft a collective contract for May 2019.
He revealed these plans for a contract at the Web Summit in Lisbon, together with his organization, the Web Foundation.
Signers to join the contract thus far include Facebook, Google, the French Government, Sir Richard Branson, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and more than fifty other organizations and key individuals. Amazon has reportedly not yet joined.
The contract is expected to be finalized in May 2019, the year when the web celebrates its 30th birthday, and when half of the world’s population is expected to be online.
When asked which particular groups he’s targeting to join, Berners-Lee pronounced, “Everybody, everybody.” The hope is that any and all companies, individuals, and governments will participate in crafting this contract. You can show your support here, and also participate on Twitter with #ForTheWeb.
Why do we need a case for the web?
The document begins by chronicling a bit of web history: how we’ve grown from just one website in 1990 to nearly two billion websites at the end of 2018 — or one website for every four people in the world.
Much of that explosive growth has brought life-saving change: uncovering corruption, overthrowing dictators, providing emergency relief from natural disasters, sourcing truth, giving countless people access to education, advancing innovation, creating millions of jobs.
But much of that growth has also carried disastrous consequences: election interference, cyber bullying, misinformation, discrimination, spread of hate speech and terrorism, data breaches and privacy scandals.
For better and for worse, the web has “changed lives and altered the course of history. . . It has changed the way we communicate with each other, opening up new worlds and new ways of thinking, even if we haven’t left home.”
The document then discusses how “the web we know and love is under attack.”
Right now it’s not for everyone — over half the people in the world aren’t online, and most of them are marginalized populations (specifically those from low-income countries and women).
And right now, the vast majority of internet power is concentrated in the hands of a few giant companies:
“More than 90% of online searches go through Google, giving the company tremendous power over what people see when searching online.2 More than half of cloud services run on Amazon. Facebook boasts over 2.2 billion active monthly users, and users of Facebook-owned WhatsApp top 1.5 billion. The responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of these companies and others like them could hardly be greater.”
What is to be done, then? That’s exactly what Berners-Lee and the Web Foundation are trying to accomplish here: “to establish the open web as a public good and a basic right.”
What are the 3 key focus areas of “The Case for the Web”?
The Case for the Web outlines three main efforts the contract hopes to further.
Accessible and affordable for everyone
- Accelerate the rate at which people are coming online
- Drive down the cost of internet access so that people can afford to connect
- Focus on connecting women
Safe and welcoming for everyone
- Protect personal data online
- Ensure automated decision-making is fair and unbiased
- Combat online bullying, harassment and abuse
- Ensure governments respect people’s rights online
Empowering for everyone
- Work toward a diverse, multilingual web
- Treat all online traffic equally
- Put the power back in the hands of the people
What are the core principles?
The core principles thus far include mandates for each governments, companies, and citizens.