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The Internet

As the Web Turns 25, Sir Tim Berners-Lee Calls For A Web Magna Carta 80

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee's "Information Management: A Proposal," containing the ideas that led to the World Wide Web. From its humble beginnings as a way to store linked documents at CERN to... well, you're reading this now. To celebrate, the W3C is encouraging people to post their birthday greetings. Quoting Tim Berners-Lee: "In the following quarter-century, the Web has changed the world in ways that I never could have imagined. There have been many exciting advances. It has generated billions of dollars in economic growth, turned data into the gold of the 21st century, unleashed innovation in education and healthcare, whittled away geographic and social boundaries, revolutionised the media, and forced a reinvention of politics in many countries by enabling constant two-way dialogue between the rulers and the ruled." Martin S. and JestersGrind both wrote in to note that Tim Berners-Lee is calling for the creation of a Web Magna Carta. Again Quoting Tim Berners-Lee "It's time for us to make a big communal decision," he said. "In front of us are two roads - which way are we going to go? Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control - more and more surveillance? Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?" How has the rise of the web affected your life? Also check out the CERN line mode browser simulation of the first web site.
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As the Web Turns 25, Sir Tim Berners-Lee Calls For A Web Magna Carta

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  • Nice idea but.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:42AM (#46464533)
    Nice idea but to get the original Magna Carta signed took a rebellion, and getting it accepted meant overthrowing the king. I don't accept the NSA, GCHQ, etc. to just accept this one either!
    • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:58AM (#46464719) Journal

      Berners-Lee is an Englishman, a Londoner for God's sake. You'd think he'd know the history of his own city and country.

      You're right. The Magna Carta was practically signed at swordpoint. And, more importantly, it wasn't a charter of rights for all humanity: it was principally a charter of the rights and powers of the nobility: the barons on the non-pointy end of the swords. In this sense, perhaps the megacorp oligarchs could get a Magna Carta, but it wouldn't make a damn sniff of difference to us peasants.

      • Magna Carta was practically signed at swordpoint.

        This is why I included an obligitory xkcd in the original submission, but I think conflating the leveraging of power in digital domain with the threat of violence and civil unrest have been a too subtle for the editor. []

    • The original Magna Carta is 799 years old; even after all that time, the concepts in it are far from universal even today.

      • And hardly a modern standard of human rights. Most of it can be summed up as 'The nobility demand the king stop oppressing their right to oppress the peasants.'

      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        Thank goodness. Most of it was bollocks and most of the good stuff ended up in there by accident.
    • by jafac ( 1449 )

      I hope this "king" dies of dysentery too.

  • Human rights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:43AM (#46464543)

    that it becomes on a level with human rights?

    Online rights are already on level with human rights. i.e.: ignored by governments, cried about by NGOs, impossible to defend, trampled upon with no consequence, ...

    I mean... We did already agree that torturing and killing people was bad, right?

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:44AM (#46464557) Homepage

    Therefore its a meaningless gesture and nothing more than a publicity stunt for the anniversary.

    And equating it to human rights is an insult to all the people in the world currently having their rights abused or taken away completely. Oddly enough billions of people manage to live quite fulfilled lives without going near a web browser. The same can't be said for those being oppressed ,tortured, starved or massacred. While I respect Berners-Lee, I think he's lost a bit of perspective on things.

    • I see we are out of touch with the "human rights" crowd.

      Cause and effect. People have learned that applying the "human rights" label greatly helps win whatever your argument is. Talking about actual abuse? Passe. Talking about a web browser being a human right? Absolutely on-topic. Denying the right to a web browser? Morally equivalent to ordering the People's Security Bureau to round up all suspected dissenters for 20 year prison terms.

      The perspective that's lacking is yours. Get with the program

    • Therefore its a meaningless gesture and nothing more than a publicity stunt for the anniversary.

      I'm not sure I agree with that. I mean the idea of racial equality was unenforceable at one point in time. Did that make campaigning for equal rights a meaningless gesture? There are any number of systematic injustices that have been largely eliminated, and in most cases it started out by someone asking for something they couldn't enforce.

      I guess if you want something to change, a good first step is probably

  • I was born in 1989 ^_^
  • I met my wife online (in a Yahoo chat room), work online as a web developer, socialize online with people around the world on a daily basis, use it for reference (ala Wikipedia) and entertainment (e.g. Netflix). Without the web, my life would be much, much smaller and poorer.

    • As USENET and WELL junkie (hell no AOL).
      The Web made it easier for services and users.
      • True. Oldtimers like me don't really look back fondly on the birthday of the Web.

        We did just fine with FTP and Gopher and NNTP. The 'net had a moderately high intellectual entry barrier. It was hard, and it was complicated. It was its own intelligence test. We didn't have to suffer fools gladly; fools couldn't even work the doorknob, let alone enter and sully us with their foolishness.

        If I'm going to bravely cheer the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web, I may as well applaud the first day of the September []

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      "Without the web, my life would be much, much smaller and poorer."

      I feel sorry for you. Seriously. I use most of the above too but if I lost web access it would be like loosing the TV - annoying but hardly a big deal in the scheme of things. Perhaps you need to find some real life friends and do some more outdoor activities.

      • by neminem ( 561346 )

        Why? Why *should* he do things he doesn't enjoy as much, just because you think he *should* enjoy them more?

        If I lost the internet, I don't even know what I would do with my time. (If I lost web access it would be *literally* like losing the tv, since I watch all my tv online. Also like losing all my gaming consoles, half my library, not to mention would seriously impact my ability to get any work done, since most documentation is online these days.)

        And yes, I also found my wife online - technically we met

      • by torsmo ( 1301691 )

        Perhaps you need to find some real life friends and do some more outdoor activities.

        It's quite annoying to see sentiments similar to this echoed whenever someone reveals they prefer an "online life" to a more traditionally held view of "a life". Why is someone's idea of fun/life inherently superior to that of another, simply because it involves close physical interaction with sentient/near-sentient biological entities? If they are satisfied with their lifestyle, and are comfortable with not going outside and enjoying themselves in the digital world, why should they be forced to confirm to

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          Someone has the right to sit on front of a screen all their life and I have the right to think they're a bit of a loser.

          And yes , I am sitting in front of a screen myself - I'm paid to. But this is a diversion at work. At home I have better things to do.

        • Not to mention that "close physical interaction" might be with people who don't share your interests. Online, you can get together with people based on mutual interests and not just "we happen to live near each other."

      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:12PM (#46466315) Homepage

        I meant "my life would be much, much smaller and poorer" in a few ways. The obvious use of "poorer" is that I wouldn't have the job I have now. No need for a web developer if the web didn't exist! (Yes, I'd be doing something else. Likely with computers, but who knows if I'd enjoy it as much as I enjoy web development.)

        Also, my world would literally be smaller. I'd know my tiny circle of "In Real Life" friends/co-workers/family and that would be it. Given the small geographic area that all of us occupy, our life experiences are somewhat the same. Yes, there are variations, but nothing too radical. Online, however, I converse with people from across the United States, Canada, Australia, etc. If I'm discussing an issue, I can get viewpoints from people who have much different life experiences and who live in many different situations. This also means that we can compare reportings of world events. If TV news reports here say that X happened, reports in France say that Y happened, and reports from Japan say Z happened, we can all get together to try to figure out the truth. (Or at least cut through some of the spin that news programs love to add.) All of this inter-connectedness adds richness to my life, so my life would be poorer were the Internet to disappear.

        Finally, the Internet has enabled me to connect with people based on interests instead of based on geographic location. Growing up, I knew only one other person who liked science fiction even remotely as much as I did. I can't even begin to count the number of people I've met online who share my interests. What's more, the Internet has enabled me to pursue new interests. I wanted to try making a fez for a Doctor Who costume so I looked up some tutorials, found a blog with detailed templates/photos/descriptions, and made my own fez. It came out so good that my Whovian kids wanted their own. I even connected with the blog's author to thank her. Without the Internet, I wouldn't have known how to do this at all. At best, I might have found a magazine article with some limited instructions... after much searching... if my library felt the need to stock that particular issue of that particular magazine.

        Then there's the fact that I communicate a whole lot better online than face-to-face. (Asperger's Syndrome + social pressure to say the right thing at just the right moment = poor face-to-face conversation skills. Constantly working on it, but I'm much better communicating via writing.) Actually, in many ways, communicating with people online has helped me communicate better with people face-to-face since I can remember how I responded to something online and draw upon that in a face-to-face discussion.

        The Internet is a big part of my life in many different ways and I wouldn't want to go back to life without it.

    • I met my wife online (in a Yahoo chat room), work online as a web developer, socialize online with people around the world on a daily basis, use it for reference (ala Wikipedia) and entertainment (e.g. Netflix). Without the web, my life would be much, much smaller and poorer.

      Alas I'm the single type -not gay, just enjoy the single life; or I could of said the same thing, but in a pre-Internet/IRC way.

      $250 for a Supra2400 baud modem really changed my life, but didn't know what to do with it when I got it. This was pre-Gore so had to hit the local computer store for BBS numbers, BBS's ya like I had a clue.

      Hit the Bulletin Board System (BBS) and I met a few long term girlfriends online (BBS's were/are mostly local affairs), even have a son; a direct result of my modem purchase.

      I e

  • Also check out the CERN line mode browser simulation [] of the first web site

    On chrome it's unreadable, on IE it's crazily formated. Firefox shows it correctly, but come on; talking about how awesome the web is and giving an example that fucks up?

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @12:13PM (#46464895)
    Once Jim Clarke and Bill Gates had their "broswers wars", orderly development of web was thrown out of the window by the money chase. This may not have been bad. You now had hundreds of thousands trying out new ideas. Even though 99% there were some gems in the successful 1%.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    of their wealthiest citizens. This is especially true in the United States. Now imagine how much more difficult it would have been to invade Iraq and steal their oil if the citizens of both the U.S. and Iraq routinely communicated, like over the web. Then the citizens of the aggressor would feel the pain of the thefts their government engages in . . . and might even go so far as to oppose them.

    Opposing wars is a direct attack on the profits of both government minions and the wealthy who buy them. Theref

  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @12:30PM (#46465097) Journal

    How has the rise of the web affected your life?

    well, an unnecessary abstraction layer in internetworked computing conjured out of thin air by Euro academics for essentially marketing purposes...that hasn't really done jack sh*t for me

    now..."the internet"...that's pretty much changed every aspect of my life in some way or another...

    December 9th 1968... []**that's** the internet's birthday!

  • Bandwidth and CPU power have increased to the point where pervasive surveillance is achievable by government bodies. That will never change, unless you use a new Internet - which will run on the same compromised layer-1 system.

  • by DiEx-15 ( 959602 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @12:42PM (#46465231)
    How about the following:

    1) Tell the NSA to GTFO. They are officially ban hammered.
    2) The government, ISPs, MAFIAAs, etc. keep their damned hands off the internet. Any attempt to meddle with it gains them a horse whipping that gets televised for the whole world to see.
    3) Any ISP getting a hair-brained notion to do crap like "two-tiered" internet gets everybody from the CEO down to the janitor horse whipped. Severely. On Television.
    4) Everybody and anybody can get internet and has more than one ISP to chose from. If an ISP has a monopoly, they either get a competitor or get a horse whipping that puts the one in #3 to shame every day until they do. Televised, of course.
  • Sir, by accepting to partition the Web into a subset for the customers of Google, Adobe, Apple and Microsoft and another subset for everyone else, you have lost any credibility to my eyes when you're talking about my rights online.

    Government surveillance? The technology you have supported can be the best means to bring more surveillance to the web - for instance, by allowing you to view certain subsets of the web only if you're using a proprietary browser with spyware built-in.

  • So what he's saying is that we should all grab our botnets and assault Al Gore (the king of the internet), forcing him to give rights to those of us who own servers?

    . . . I'm OK with this.

  • Please write your Web Magna Carta, and I will sign it.

  • ...the guy who's pushing for Hollywood's control of the web? Something is amiss.
  • by bouldin ( 828821 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @01:44PM (#46465963)

    Why do people seem to think governments are the only threat to our rights in this space?

    Large corporations already watch and log everything they can about you. Not just your metadata, but what you do (deep packet inspection), where you are (location-based services), what you buy (sharing all your transactions with "affiliates"), and what you say (facebook messages, etc).

    What's worse, this data is all legally their property (at least in the U.S.), so they can basically do whatever they want with it, sell it, store it, give it to the government in exchange for favors, or worse. AFAIK, you cant even demand to see what they are keeping on file for you.

    Their capabilities are not just passive, either. They can control what services you can access (now that net neutrality is dead), gouge you financially with little justification (credit ratings are based on proprietary algorithms), open you to barrages of advertisement, trick you into legal commitments you dont understand (do you have $500 to have a lawyer review that EULA?), and guess what? Government provides all the tools to enforce all of this. And you pay for ALL of it.

    As long as we are using analogies from EU history, the government is a neutered king who lives far away and you rarely feel his presence. Big Business is the nobility who owns all the land, controls all the food, hoards all the money, and controls your life on a day-to-day basis. Like an indentured servant, you have no choice to participate and hand over most of the fruits of your labor. What are you going to do - stop buying things and stop having a job?

    I'll head off one criticism of what I'm saying. This is not conspiracy theory, because there is no conspiracy necessary. This is a system, and most of what I've said above is just legal fact.

    Unlike your government, you can not participate in corporate governance, you can't request meeting minutes under FOIA, internal rules and policies are rarely published. You have no voice except your dollars (and many industries are so anticompetitive you really have little choice).

    Maybe big business has all this opportunity but doesnt take advantage of it. Do you think so?

  • But that's just my humble opinion.

  • The Web (and Internet) enable the free flow of information. Up till recently, the way to distribute information was radio, television and print. There is huge money and power in controlling the flow of information. Frankly, I'm surprised the Internet has not been more locked down and controlled yet.

    Rest assured that it is in the sights of politicians and big business. So, something like a Web Magna Carta would be quite a useful document. At least talking about the concept of trying to keep the Internet

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @02:39PM (#46466665)
    "--- You must be this intelligent to ride the internet."
  • ...but one that even governments would have to abide by?

    Something like this would be impossible to enforce (and by whom?), but it could serve as a point of moral reference, like the Hays Code. we could even set up a private body, say a crowdsourced wiki tribunal, that could act as a clearinghouse for violation reports so we could net-smae those we saw as violators.

    Or failing that, issue a set of black robes to the nine Slashdotters with the highest karma in each given year, then have them vote on each case.

  • by Tom ( 822 )

    There was a declaration of independence for the Internet some 10 or 15 years ago. Anyone remember it and got a link?

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