Berners-Lee Launches Web Initiative

By Ashling, Jim | Information Today, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Berners-Lee Launches Web Initiative


Ashling, Jim, Information Today


Pausing momentarily in the middle of a keynote address to pick up an iPhone, Tim Berners-Lee sent a tweet from the podium to launch the World Wide Web Foundation.

"timberners_lee: Hereby officially launching the #WebFoundation, at IGF in Egypt. Podiumtweet to identi.ca 5:15 AM Nov 15th from identica"

Obviously enjoying the moment, Berners-Lee explained, "That's how we do it today, ladies and gentlemen" to a round of applause. The event was the opening session of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) last November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This was the fourth of a planned series of five IGF meetings, convened by the United Nations, to offer all interested parties an opportunity to discuss how the internet can be used to its full potential to benefit people worldwide.

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According to the vision statement for the Web Foundation, "We envision a world where all people are empowered by the Web. Everyone--regardless of language, ability, location, gender, age or income--will be able to communicate and collaborate, create valued content, and access the information that they need to improve their lives and communities." The mission of the foundation is twofold: First, it can realize this vision through transformative programs that advance the web technically by breaking down barriers and building capabilities, and second, those that advance the web socially as a medium that empowers people to bring about positive change.

The foundation has already announced two projects. The first is a partnership with VU University-Amsterdam called the Web Alliance for Re-greening in Africa (W4RA). It will train and assist local developers to implement and deploy mobile web- and voice-based platforms to improve communication between agricultural specialists and farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, and other African countries. The second is a joint project with the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI) in Brazil, which is dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youth how to use information technologies.

Berners-Lee concluded his keynote by explaining that he doesn't look at the internet and the web as a collection of connected computers or connected webpages but as "connected humanity" where the technology empowers people.

Internationalized Domain Names

EU Commissioner Viviane Reding has welcomed the decision by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to allow internet domain names to be written in non-Latin characters including Chinese, Arabic, and Greek. Also speaking at the IGF in Sharm el-Sheikh, Reding said, "The online world should be a reflection of the multicultural and multilingual world offline." She added, "In Europe, we are already well ahead in our plans to enable names under dot.eu to use Greek and Cyrillic letters before the end of the year and we are also pushing forward to have Greek and Cyrillic script versions of dot.eu at the top level very soon."

The Chinese characters, (meaning dot China), could be among the first top-level, non-Latin names because China's domain name registration and management institution has already submitted an application to ICANN to use them. Objectors to the change worry about the potential need to register business domain addresses in multiple character sets and increased threats of fake web addresses that could be used in phishing attacks.

Reding also expressed the EU's support for a continuation of the IGF as a unique forum to "engage in open, non-binding and multi-stakeholder dialogue." The IGF is not mandated to continue beyond the forum planned for Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2010. But the U.S. and Japan agree with the EU that the discussions are useful. However, China already called for the IGF to end, claiming that it is a powerless talking shop dominated by the U.S. and Europe.

Some countries are uncomfortable with the frequent emphasis in IGF discussions on the "open internet" and with the criticism that is often made of countries that impose varying degrees of censorship on their citizens' internet access. …

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