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Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook Threatens Web, Beware

A Call To Arms

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 11/22/10 01:05 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:15 PM ET

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, warned that social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Friendster constitute one of "several threats to the Web's universality," arguing that such sites create "closed silos of content" that may threaten the Internet's status as a "single, universal information space."

In an article in Scientific American, Berners-Lee argued that the openness of the Internet is at risk and must be defended lest we "lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want."

"Some of [the Web's] most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles," wrote Berners-Lee. "Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments--totalitarian and democratic alike--are monitoring people's online habits, endangering important human rights."

Social networking sites are threatening the Web's core principles by collecting and retaining users' information--from their contacts to their photos to their email addresses--then offering up that information to users only within their own websites, Berners-Lee argued.

"Each site is a silo, walled off from the others," he explained. "The more you enter, the more you become locked in. Your social networking site becomes a central platform - a closed silo of content, and one that does not give you full control over your information in it.

He warned, "The more this kind of architecture gains widespread use, the more the web becomes fragmented, and the less we enjoy a single, universal information space."

Berners-Lee also defended net neutrality and criticized Google and Verizon's policy proposal, which recommended that information traveling over broadband and wireless networks be treated differently and would enable Internet service providers to discriminate against some information traveling over its networks.

"Unfortunately, in August, Google and Verizon for some reason suggested that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone-based connections. Many people in rural areas from Utah to Uganda have access to the Internet only via mobile phones; exempting wireless from net neutrality would leave these users open to discrimination of service," Berners-Lee wrote.

Vint Cerf, known as one of the "fathers of the Internet," recently outlined the 3 crises he believes are facing the Web. These include, according to ComputerWeekly the shortage of IPv4 addresses; the "security and reliability" of networks; and improving mobile access.

Read Berners-Lee's full article here.

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