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Tim Berners-Lee announces World Wide Web Foundation

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee

Speaking in Washington last night (14 September), Sir Tim Berners-Lee unveiled an exciting new vision for the next phase of development of the World Wide Web …

…in which research, and the work of the Web Science Research Initiative, would play a central role.

Announcing the formation of the World Wide Web Foundation, to fulfil a vision of the Web as humanity connected by technology, Sir Tim said that the Foundation seeks to enable all people to share knowledge, access services, conduct commerce, participate in good governance, and communicate in creative ways. Crucial to achieving this will be technological innovation, research into the Web as a system, and the application of the Web for the benefit of underserved communities

The Foundation will raise funds through a multi-faceted strategy, beginning with a $5 million seed grant over five years from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

‘The Web is a tremendous platform for innovation, but we face a number of challenges to making it more useful, in particular to people in underserved communities,’ said Sir Tim. ‘Through this new initiative, we hope to develop an international ecosystem that will help shape the future Web. A more inclusive Web will benefit us all.’

The World Wide Web Foundation is in the unique position of being able to improve the Web by bringing together existing communities, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders who see the Web as a instrument of creativity, collaboration, and communication. The Web Foundation will pursue its objectives by funding projects around the world in three strategically integrated programs related to research, technology, and social development.

In outlining his expectations of the Foundation’s work, Sir Tim, a professor in ECS, emphasized the importance of Web Science as an area of study, involving multidisciplinary research into the analysis and engineering of the Web itself.

‘In 2006 I helped to set up the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) [a joint initiative between Southampton and MIT] to facilitate and produce the fundamental scientific advances necessary to inform the future design and use of the World Wide Web. We are now working with a growing number of colleagues around the world to develop the academic infrastructure for this new field.’

One aspect of this research will be to ensure that the future Web supports ‘the basic social values of trustiworthiness, privacy and respect for social boundaries that are so critical for connecting people.’ Other important areas of future work will involve mobile computing and eGovernment.

Calling for significant collaborative efforts worldwide Sir Tim said that the Web Foundation is in the unique position of being able to learn from the results of projects to accelerate the evolution of the Web. He concluded: ‘The Web is a platform like a piece of paper. It does not determine what you will do with it, it challenges your imagination.

‘Our success will be measured by how well we foster the creativity of our children. Whether future scientists have the tools to cure diseases. Whether people, in developed and developing economies alike, can distinguish reliable healthcare information from commercial chaff. Whether the next generation will build systems that support democracy, information the electorate, and promote accountable debate.’

More Information.
Posted by Joyce Lewis on 15 Sep 2008.