By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Sir Tim Berners-Lee changed the world by connecting the world through his World Wide Web. But the web he began to weave 30 years ago is unrecognisable from the Internet of today. From fake news to privacy concerns, trolls to the abuse of personal data, the web has turned ugly from the original intentions by a computer scientist working for CERN in the 1980s.
Berners-Lee was more optimistic at the start of his invention. For the first 15 years of its existence, he told the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, people "just expected the web to do great things". There was the hope that it would make us "more communicative, more peaceful, and more constructive", according to ZDNet. What could possibly go wrong?
"Well, looking back, all things have gone wrong since," Berners-Lee admitted.
He added: "If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I would have said humanity is going to do a good job with this. If we connect all these people together, they are such wonderful people they will get along. I was wrong."
What exactly has gone wrong? The web is dominated by a handful of companies that now have a "combined financial and cultural power greater than most sovereign states," the Guardian reports. The tech giants - Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook - have a combined market capitalisation of $3.7 trillion - the same as Germany's GDP last year.
The web's inventor believes that these giants may have to be broken up. He told Reuters: "What naturally happens is you end up with one company dominating the field so through history there is no alternative to really coming in and breaking things up. There is a danger of concentration."
Two of those companies with a huge dominance in the market - Facebook and Google - have signed up to new internet standards designed by Berners-Lee. The "contract for the web" will require internet companies to respect data privacy, in a year that has seen the tech giants criticised for the way they have handled data.
Berners-Lee explains: "Those of us who are online are seeing our rights and freedoms threatened, e need a new contract for the web, with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better."
He has managed to persuade nearly 60 companies, governments and business leaders to sign up to the contract, the Financial Times reports. These include: Facebook, Google, the French government and billionaire Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee may have been wrong about the web he weaved, but the internet inventor is still optimistic that with a bit of work, his creation can go back to its responsible, free and open intentions.