Happy 25th birthday the World Wide Web: The past, present and future

March 12 1989: the day that Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal which would become the World Wide Web. The breakthrough of connecting hypertext to the Internet sealed the deal, with the project being posted to the alt.hypertext newsgroup in August 1991.

It remains one of the biggest technological innovations in history. Yet not surprisingly, its inventor is looking to the future – and proposes a ‘Magna Carta’ for the web in order to protect the rights of its global userbase.

“We need a global constitution – a bill of rights,” he told the Guardian, adding: “It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

Net neutrality is still a depressingly pressing issue, just as important as when Edward Snowden leaked his first document in July last year.

This culminates in a programme called Web We Want, which aims to create “freedom of speech and belief and freedom from want and fear” for the Web, as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It’s a tricky balancing act. Sergio Galindo, general manager infrastructure business unit at GFI Software, sounded out his concerns about filtering content on the Web, legislation which was immediately given the discomfiting nickname of the ‘porn filter’.

“The biggest legacy of the Web’s first 25 years is the unrelenting freedom of information,” Galindo said. “Limiting the young, vulnerable and other unsuitable users from accessing material that could offend or cause legal issues for employers makes perfect sense, but it is a content control that should be applied locally, rather than be a broad-spectrum censorship layer that could stifle the next 25 years of web innovation.”

Plenty has been made of the original reaction to Berners-Lee’s proposals laid out in 1989, which was described by his boss Mike Sendall as “vague but exciting.”

Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Media Business, described this as “one of the biggest understatements in tech history.”

“What started on a piece of paper has had a deeply powerful effect on all aspects of people’s lives, bringing together families across the world through Skype to supporting microfinance projects in emerging markets,” he said.

But what of the future? Kelly added that more support needs to be given to young tech entrepreneurs in the UK, who might be the next Tim Berners-Lee.

“The Web is a brilliant example of science fusing with commerce,” he explained. “If business can support those future game-changers, we’ll stay on track to support Britain’s path to economic recovery, ensuring that innovation is part of the UK’s future, not just its history.”

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