As the World Wide Web turns 29, its creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has voiced his concerns about the internet being controlled a just a few dominant platforms.
In an open letter posted to the World Wide Web Foundation website, Berners-Lee says that the “powerful weight of a few dominant platforms” has compressed the web’s selection of blogs and websites that once existed. This has, in turn, enabled these powerful platforms to “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared”.
“These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors,” he says in the letter. “They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent. Add to this the competitive advantage that their user data gives them and we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last.”
With so few platforms ruling over the web, it has made it possible for people to use it to their advantage, according to Berners-Lee. The rise of fake news, conspiracy theories, election interference, and the amount of personal data on offer to criminals can all be attributed to the web’s landscape, he says.
Berners-Lee suggests that the only way to ensure that these dominant platforms do everything they can to make the web a better place is if regulations are put in place govern them. He believes that, though the platforms have made an effort to fix things, it’s still in their best interests maximise profit above creating social good.
The letter also sees Berners-Lee reaffirm his desire to bring the web to the entire world sooner rather than later, though he’s unsure whether the half of the world without the web deserve to receive it in its current state. Furthermore, he lays out his desire to have more people involved from across business, tech, government, civil society, the arts, and academia in discussions around the future of the web and not those that control it.