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The Inventor of the World Wide Web Has a Plan to Save It

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web (WWW) proposal with the words "Vague but exciting"

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 of this year. Last March, Berners-Lee spoke openly about his concerns regarding the direction things were heading, and what we could do about it.

“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.


Principle 1

Ensure everyone can connect to the internet

  1. By setting and tracking ambitious policy goals
  2. By designing robust policy-frameworks and transparent enforcement institutions to achieve such goals
  3. By ensuring systematically excluded populations have effective paths towards meaningful internet access

Principle 2

Keep all of the internet available, all of the time

  1. 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
  2. By creating capacity to ensure demands to remove illegal content are done in ways that are consistent with human rights law
  3. By promoting openness and competition in both internet access and content layers

Principle 3

Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights

  1. By establishing and enforcing comprehensive data protection and rights frameworks
  2. By requiring that government demands for access to private communications and data are necessary and proportionate to the aim pursued
  3. By supporting and monitoring privacy and online data rights


Principle 4

Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone

  1. By crafting policies that address the needs of systematically excluded groups
  2. By working towards an ever-increasing quality of service
  3. By ensuring full use of the internet by all, through a close coordination with Government and Civil Society towards

Principle 5

Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust

  1. By giving people control over their privacy and data rights, with clear and meaningful choices to control processes involving their privacy and data
  2. By supporting corporate accountability and robust privacy and data protection by design
  3. By making privacy and data rights equally available to everyone

Principle 6

Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst

  1. By being accountable for their work, through regular reports
  2. By engaging with all communities in an inclusive way
  3. By investing in and supporting the digital commons


Principle 7

Be creators and collaborators on the Web

  1. By being active participants in shaping the Web, including content and systems made available through it

Principle 8

Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity

  1. By working towards a more inclusive Web

Principle 9

Fight for the Web

  1. 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

Mark Chaffee
the authorOWC Mark C
Content Marketing Manager
A creative by nature, Mark is a writer, programmer, web developer, musician, culinary craftsman, and interpersonal artisan. He loves the outdoors because greenspace is to the soul as whitespace is to the written word. He does not like Diophantine geometry or mosquitos. Most everything else is okay. Oh yeah, he is also the managing editor of the Rocket Yard blog.
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    • These are just the headers. The full contact expands:

      1. By ensuring full use of the internet by all, through a close coordination with Government and Civil Society towards

      A) Crafting corporate policies that minimize access barriers created by differences in language, location, age and ability.
      B) Ensuring that applications and services are designed with potentially excluded groups.
      C) Designing gender inclusive strategies to increase internet access and digital literacy by women and other systematically excluded groups.

  • we do not need any sort of government control and this proposal would lead to that. you cannot provide access to the internet for everyone because it would cost too much and it would not be controllable without a ton of government action.

  • As has been said already, lovely feel-good words with little actionable meaning here. I can just see China or North Korea signing on to the points 1-3, 2-1 or any of principle 3.

    The underlying issue is that a small cadre of entities hold the chokepoints – as Google, say, leans ever more leftward, will they tweak their proprietary algorithms to mute right leaning information? The Google effect – where most folks believe what they get as search results will match their neighbors’ – is prevalent, so convincing people that what they “Googled” is not the full (or perhaps accurate) story becomes ever more difficult.

  • Twice, the laws changed in the USA that has allow the Web/Internet to be controlled by a few, to promote their propaganda self-serving interests. The internet in the USA is censored and controlled by big business.

    In 2004, I remember I could search for just about anything and find it within a few minutes. Today, in the USA in 2019, it literally can take me over 6 hours to just find one simple answer.

    Since the internet is censored in the USA, I must rely on the TOR browser to search for information originating from Europe. Even then, I still end up with a lot of garbage.

    This contract may work in Europe, but only a fool would think that it could work in the USA. The USA is controlled by insatiable sociopathic and even psychopathic money-addicts and their propagandist institutions.

  • Problem is this could create 1984. What is hate speech to one, is just free speech to another. Here in the US, we used to believe in freedom of religion and speech. Now we suppress both.

    • Yes, suppressing freedom of religion and free speech in the USA appears to me to only benefit a few, seemingly in an attempt to keep the ‘truths’ from ever reaching the duped masses of the USA.

      We are ‘way’ beyond ‘1984’, I believe sadly enough.

      I long for those early USA internet days where information seemed to be shared freely and not for profit.

      Although, occasionally I come across websites from other countries, where the English Language is totally absent, finding the unselfishly sharing of ones information, computer programs, and other media.

      I use TOR for in-depth searches, so I was wondering if you or anyone else reading this has had any luck with VPN’s to circumnavigate the internet censorship here in the USA?



  • Principle 5 should be first.
    More importantly, fix the broken hardware and software. IMHO, everything “computer” that isn’t 100 percent hack proof is broken. Everyone has been selling broken crap from day one. I want my money back, Mr. Gates, for all the broken crap you and your buds have been selling. Think of all the lives damaged or destroyed by hacks and identity theft. Mr. Gates and friends take no responsibility at all, eh?

  • It is desperately needed, indeed. But is it achievable, or is it just a kind of Utopia?

    I would compare the Contract For The Web with a movement to save our planet from a climate change. Most everyone knows that we need to do something about it, but hardly anyone actually does it. Especially those who have most potential and power to change the world for better, are doing the least (US, Chinese and Russian governments).

    BTW, I totally agree with the original comment about the frustratingly vague definitions in the Contract. Companies like Facebook and Google who already jumped on the bandwagon are sure to interpret and skew the Contract the way it will be beneficial for them.

  • “Principle 3

    By requiring that government demands for access to private communications and data are necessary and proportionate to the aim pursued”

    “Necessary” to what? Control of dissidents, or worse? This needs to be defined: “Necessary to national security or safety of the public, as determined by objective evaluation by legal authority.” I.e., the government needs a warrant.

    This is only one example of the problem with this document. Sir Tim Berner-Lee needs to use much more specific language if he expects support from the public. These rules are so non-specific that any good lawyer could interpret them to mean almost anything.

    People should also be aware that since 1942, the US Supreme Court has systematically gutted the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. I do not know what similar “protections” of individual rights may exist in other countries, but I suspect they are now equally meaningless.

    As it stands, this “Contract for the Web” is so ambiguous as to be essentially meaningless. It needs to be specific, not a bunch of platitudes.