Friday, November 19, 2010

TBL warns Web fragmenting into walled gardens

While I've yet to read more than the first page of Tim Berners-Lee's latest, I've already stumbled across several statements that merit response, the following in particular.

TBL writes "The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles."

Certainly, in part, but the potential for profit played no small part in motivating most of those involved, who shared that egalitarian vision only insofar as it served their own proprietary purposes. For example, contending browser vendors attempted to push through their own extensions to the initial standards, with an eye to reaping licensing fees for their use.

It's testimony to the purity of TBL's own motivation that he can still see the development of the Web in such terms, and apparently believe that it is only recently succumbing to the taint of divisive commercial interests, but, as well informed as his view undeniably is, it fails the test of objectivity.

There was never any chance that the Web could grow as it has while existing in isolation from such influences. The best possible outcome would be if the Web continues to make provision for the unencumbered exchange of information and opinion, alongside the walled gardens and pay-to-play sites, far into the future.

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