The Web @ 30: Then and Now

  • As the World Wide Web turns 30 years old, consider the comments from its creator Tim Berners-Lee in “Information Management: A Proposal” published March 1989, which “discusses the problems of loss of information about complex evolving systems and derives a solution based on a distributed hypertext system.” 

  • His proposal said, “We should work toward a universal linked information system … The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards. The result should be sufficiently attractive to use that the information contained would grow past a critical threshold, so that the usefulness of the scheme would in turn encourage its increased use.”

  • Berners-Lee’s current project is Solid, from his startup Inrupt.  Its “mission is to reshape the web as we know it.”

  • The project’s website says: “Within the Solid ecosystem, you decide where you store your data. Photos you take, comments you write, contacts in your address book, calendar events, how many miles you run each day from your fitness tracker… they’re all stored in your Solid POD …

  • "PODs are like secure USB sticks for the Web, that you can access from anywhere …

  • "When you post comments or videos online, your friends can view them with whatever app they like, such as an album viewer or a social feed. It’s your data, that can be shaped in any way or form.”

  • Separately, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post, "I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about."


  • Regarding the Web @ 30: The idea of connecting information using hypertext was introduced in the 1960s by Ted Nelson, but the power of Tim Berners-Lee’s approach was that it connected information across disparate applications, computers and networks. It is worth noting that mass adoption of the web was driven by a tool that made it “easy-to-use - the Mosaic web browser, introduced in 1993.

  • Regarding Solid: The project is broad and ambitious. Its success will require attracting developers to build applications based on its services and users who have grown accustomed to “free” or at low priced services.  

  • Bottom Line: As privacy concerns and interest in decentralized applications increase, Berners-Lee’s current vision may set the direction for the next wave of Internet innovation – significant competition will come from Facebook and others along the way.

Paul Dravis