Tim Berners-Lee is leading the call for what he describes as 'a Magna Carta for the web', to address what are claimed to be 'far too many unacceptable risks' introduced by what the World Wide Web has become.

Responsible for the development of the World Wide Web project, which has become by far and away the most popular application to run on top of the internet, London-born Tim Berners-Lee has become somewhat disillusioned with his creation of late. Early last month he unveiled Solid, a project which aimed to improve user privacy by providing a platform which 'gives every user a choice about where data is stored, which specific people and groups can access select elements, and which apps you use. It allows you, your family and colleagues, to link and share data with anyone.'

While related in spirit, Berners-Lee's latest call to action is entirely separate: the creation of a 'Contract for the Web', held under the World Wide Web Foundation. 'The free and open web is facing real challenges,' the Foundation explains on the project's website. 'More than half of the world's population still are not online. For the other half, the web's undeniable benefits seem to come with far too many unacceptable risks: to our privacy, our democracy, even our mental health. #ForTheWeb is a global campaign of people like you, uniting as one voice to get governments, companies and the public to stand up for a free, open and safe web that benefits everyone.'

The proposed contract is built around a set of core principles, based on the concept that 'the web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available.' For governments, these principles include ensuring that everyone can connect to the internet, that the entire internet is made available without restrictions, and that people's fundamental right to privacy should be protected. For companies, the principles ask that they make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone, respect consumers' privacy and personal data, and develop technologies 'that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst'. Individual citizens, meanwhile, must pledge to be creators and collaborators, build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity, and 'fight for the web so the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future'.

Unveiling the project at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Berners-Lee described the Contract as 'a Magna Carta for the web', and it has already attracted some big-name support including a partnership with technology giant Google. 'Over the coming months, we'll work with the World Wide Web Foundation and many other partners from government and business, as well as web users around the world, to draw up principles that protect the open web as a public good and a basic right for everyone,' explains Google.org president Jacquelline Fuller in a blog post. 'We're also backing up that commitment with a one million dollar Google.org grant to the World Wide Web Foundation so that it can continue to drive forward its important work #ForTheWeb.'

More information on the Contract and the #ForTheWeb initiative is available on the official website.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04