Inventor par excellence

World Wide Web is meant for keeping the world more diverse and exciting by decentralising knowledge and making data accessible to as many people as possible, states its iconic originator Sir Tim Berners-Lee at a lecture in Sultan Qaboos University. Muhammed Nafie reports.

When the concept of World Wide Web was first introduced in December 1989, who could have guessed that it would explode the floodgates of linked data turning our life inside out? After twenty three years of the so-called data revolution, we still wonder where it will take us in the next couple of decades.

But its iconic architect has no worries about the objective and mission of his invention. “You should use the web technology to keep the world more diverse and exciting,” stated Sir Tim Berners-Lee addressing a packed audience comprising students, academics and professionals at the Sultan Qaboos University Cultural Centre. “The job of the Internet is to be transparent and be a means to an end-to-end system. If we use the Web we should preserve its properties and in doing so make the world a diverse and exciting place.”

In a speech which blended his childhood memories and his evolution as the inventor of Web with his insightful perspective on the future of technology, Sir Berners-Lee called for an open data policy on the Web which will encourage people to share data for information and research. Observing that the process of linking data which requires only a limited amount of energy results in larger benefits for the society, he said, “We have to value the importance of linking data as it allows one to work or learn from a third person who might be an unknown entity.”

Referring to the spirit of decentralisation involved in the evolution of Internet from 1969, Sir Berners-Lee asked the students to keep their designs layered and open-ended so that new generation can build on it in the future. “When the internet was first developed in 1969 it was layered so that 20 years after that I could develop web on that and now after twenty years you can design things on top of the web. When you design, design it for people who are to come in the future and who can build things that you cannot imagine.

Design it in a way that it can be used in many ways later.” A strong advocate for openness and free accessibility of data to all, Sir Berners-Lee believes that it is essential to make one’s web project accessible to as many people as possible. “Web is designed to be accessible to people with disabilities,” he said explaining that using audio features and captions in the websites is an effective way to reach out to differently abled people.

Oman’s future
Talking about Web Index, world’s first multi-dimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations, he said, “The index shows how best the Web is being used and what its social impact is. It covers 61 developed and developing countries. Although Oman is not part of it, I hope that by next year it can provide information and be on the list.”
He opined that Oman needs to develop a process of interlinking data from different sources. He exuded confidence that linked data with various classifications (for example the details of hospitals, teachers and universities etc) will usher in a new era of World Wide Web in Oman. “It allows you to pick your battles, pick where your energy will be spent,” he said. Addressing the problem of people’s reluctance to provide information, he said giving credit for any information used and honouring people for their share of work will encourage more people to share information.

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