In March of 1989, while working at CERN laboratories in Geneva, Computer Scientist Tim Berners-Lee proposed an information management system to help solve the problems associated with document retrieval and control. “Vague but exciting” were the words that his boss, Mike Sendall, wrote at the top of his submission. And so the World Wide Web was born – as a vague concept of document sharing based on a distributed hypertext system.
A lot has changed since then. In fact, it’s reasonably safe to say that everything has changed. Mostly for good, but some for the not-so-good as well. To address these concerns, Berners-Lee and the folks at the World Wide Web Foundation have launched a plan. The project is designed to align governments, companies, and individuals by bolstering the positive and minimizing the negative with a “Contract for the Web.”
This is the opening declaration of the Contract For The Web, which officially launched on November 23rd
“The power of the Web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. But if we don’t act now — and act together — to prevent the Web from being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.” Berners-Lee goes on to state that to do this, we need to “establish clear norms, laws, and standards that underpin the web.”
So, what exactly is this Contract for the Web? Here is how the organization explains it:
- The Web is one of the most transformative tools the world has ever seen and has changed billions of lives for the better. But a growing set of risks threaten its power as a force for good.
- The Contract for the Web is a global action plan to address these threats and to protect an open web that is safe, empowering and for everyone.
- It will guide the digital policy agendas of governments and the decisions of companies as they build tomorrow’s web technologies.
- It sets standards, rooted in human rights, for the development and implementation of new technologies, and the policies and laws we need to support them.
- It brings together the core parties shaping the future of the Web — governments, companies and civic groups — around a shared set of commitments that are rooted in human rights, setting out concrete actions they and individual web users must take to build a web that works for all humanity.
Several countries (including France and Germany) and hundreds of companies (including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter) are already onboard. Now Berners-Lee is asking for us common-folk to endorse the contract as well. The outline is relatively simple – nine principles, three each for governments, companies, and citizens.
Ensure everyone can connect to the internet
- By setting and tracking ambitious policy goals
- By designing robust policy-frameworks and transparent enforcement institutions to achieve such goals
- By ensuring systematically excluded populations have effective paths towards meaningful internet access
Keep all of the internet available, all of the time
- By establishing legal and regulatory frameworks to minimize government-triggered internet disruptions, and ensure any interference is only done in ways consistent with human rights law
- By creating capacity to ensure demands to remove illegal content are done in ways that are consistent with human rights law
- By promoting openness and competition in both internet access and content layers
Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights
- By establishing and enforcing comprehensive data protection and rights frameworks
- By requiring that government demands for access to private communications and data are necessary and proportionate to the aim pursued
- By supporting and monitoring privacy and online data rights
Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone
- By crafting policies that address the needs of systematically excluded groups
- By working towards an ever-increasing quality of service
- By ensuring full use of the internet by all, through a close coordination with Government and Civil Society towards
Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust
- By giving people control over their privacy and data rights, with clear and meaningful choices to control processes involving their privacy and data
- By supporting corporate accountability and robust privacy and data protection by design
- By making privacy and data rights equally available to everyone
Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst
- By being accountable for their work, through regular reports
- By engaging with all communities in an inclusive way
- By investing in and supporting the digital commons
Be creators and collaborators on the Web
- By being active participants in shaping the Web, including content and systems made available through it
Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
- By working towards a more inclusive Web
Fight for the Web
- By being active citizens of the Web
I find it quite poetic that the man who birthed the World Wide Web some 30 years ago is now trying to save it. But does it need saving? It will be interesting to see if this movement gains any momentum and what kind of reaction people from around the globe will have. Perhaps we can begin here at Rocket Yard. What do you think about the Contract for the Web, and is it needed?
For more information, you can read the complete text at contractfortheweb.org.