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Internet Has to be a Neutral Place, says Tim Berners Lee

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, 55, is regarded as the father of the World Wide Web. A British engineer and computer scientist, he currently teaches at MIT. He spoke to BT's Kushan Mitra.

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: April 17, 2011

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, 55, is regarded as the father of the World Wide Web. A British engineer and computer scientist who currently teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Berners-Lee also heads the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, a standards body that sets benchmarks and standards for the Internet.

In 1980, then an independent contractor at Swiss research institute CERN. Berners-Lee conceptualised the hypertext, or the embedding of a link inside a line of digital text.

Nine years later, with more experience in the computer networking space, he linked hypertext to the transmission control protocol and the domain-name system to complete his creation. Attending the India Today Conclave, he spoke to BT's KUSHAN MITRA.

On whether the 'web is dead':
I believe by creating apps that can only be accessed by a small subset of users, content providers are actually decreasing the Net. People can take information from the web and create nice applications, but when information is out there on the Net you can share the hyperlink, tweet about it and so on.

The Net changed the direction of political discourse:
A newspaper has limited geographic boundaries, while the Internet is instant and more inclusive. It also means you can use social means to solve bigger problems. The web opens up possibilities in building businesses, and for democracy. We have just started experimenting.

Governments are afraid of the Net:
Unpopular or oppressive governments are very afraid of any means that allows people to communicate. Incidents in North Africa recently have been very exciting as they have demonstrated the power of the Internet. The question also is how much power should a democratically elected government be given to restrict access to the Net? Maybe enough to tackle serious cases of terrorism. But there are cases where governments use the Net to spy on their own people. The Internet has to be a neutral place. People should be able to see content uncensored and without being spied upon.

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