June 8, 2012
In 1989, scientist TIM BERNERS-LEE (also known as TimBL, born 1955) found himself at the inter-European particle physics research organization CERN, working not on collisions but connection. Hypertext and the Internet were already in play, but they weren’t yet something one did together. What Berners-Lee did was marry the ability to travel through text (hypertext, links) with the ability to travel through the linked computers of the Internet; the map became the territory and the World Wide Web was born. Berners-Lee took out no patent on his invention, offering it freely to the world: “Only connect,” urged E.M. Forster; Berners-Lee turned that prompt into a link. As the web has grown, so has the advocacy of its founding father. (It has founding mothers, too.) Berners-Lee holds certain truths to be self-evident, first among them net neutrality — the idea that web connectivity should underpin an open, democratic exchange of ideas. Neither paywalls nor politics, he insists, should compromise or interfere with our “basic human network rights.”
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