(Bloomberg) — The World Wide Web is 28 years old. But these days it often appears to have the growing pains of a teenager. There’s the scourge of fake news, growing pockets of censorship around the world, the fiery debate over net neutrality and more.
When teens get into trouble, you typically talk to the parents. As it happens, I had the opportunity last week to interview Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who was working for the European research organization CERN back in 1989 when he proposed the idea of using a tool called a web browser to visit distinct pages on the internet, each with an individual domain name and connected via a network of hyperlinks.
A few years later, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web consortium, or W3C, to bring companies and developers together to solve problems and create new technical standards. Berners-Lee and I spoke on stage last Wednesday at the end of one of the W3C’s regular plenary meetings, and things got interesting, fast.
I started out by asking him if he occasionally felt like Dr. Frankenstein, wondering, “What have I wrought?” while watching the unfolding saga of fake news on the web and its implications for democracies. “Yeah, I have,” he replied. His concerns during the web’s first 25 years focused on expanding access to more people. But now he thinks the web has become as complex and intricate as a human brain—so the tech industry requires a multi-disciplinary approach to “look out for unintended