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This article is from the In-Depth Report The World Wide Web Turns 25

We are the world: Web's designer launches foundation to bring invention to all

It’s a lofty goal: make the World Wide Web truly global. Now, the Web's inventor says he'll try to do just that.

The new World Wide Web Foundation, founded by Tim Berners-Lee, will launch next year to bring the Web to people who don’t have ready access to it, the organization announced today — an effort that reflects what Berners-Lee says is the inherent populist nature of the Web.

"The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people," Berners-Lee, who was working as a software engineer when he invented the Web, said last night during a speech to the philanthropic Knight Foundation, which gave the project a $5 million grant. "When a link is made, it is a person who makes the link. When a link is followed, it is a person who decides to follow it. Understanding and accounting for the social side of the Web was, and remains, a vital part of encouraging its growth."

The World Wide Web Foundation will utilize Web science, a new area of study detailed by Berners-Lee in the October issue of Scientific American. Web science incorporates math, computer science, psychology and a slew of other disciplines to answer real-world questions about privacy and intellectual property. "What evolutionary patterns have driven the Web’s growth?" ask Berners-Lee and his co-author, Nigel Shadbolt, a computer science professor at the University of Southampton in the U.K. "Could they burn out? How do tipping points arise, and can that be altered?"

It's all very synergistic, the magazine suggests. "Something has made the Web fantastically successful at inspiring and empowering innovation," John Rennie writes in an editor's letter. "The trick is to find out which of its features have been most instrumental to that end so that they might be enhanced further or duplicated in other situations."

Already, the Web Science Research Initiative is developing an academic infrastructure of the new field of study, and the standards body W3C is tackling its practical implications, including the use of mobile technology in developing economies, Berners-Lee noted in last night's speech in Washington, D.C.

(Image by Uldis Bojārs)

 

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