The Internet Web Is 25: How Do We Keep It Open and Free?

This week is the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Internet a.k.a. the World Wide Web. Yesterday Google shared a message from the Internet’s Web’s inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee. In March 1989 he shared a proposal for “a ‘web’ of notes with links between them” or a non-linear system using “hypertext” which I remember (as someone who used the precursors of the Internet) as a hot topic at the time.

Berners-Lee takes the opportunity to ask some important questions in urging us to keep the Internet open and free:

So today is a day to celebrate. But it’s also an occasion to think, discuss—and do. Key decisions on the governance and future of the Internet are looming, and it’s vital for all of us to speak up for the web’s future. How can we ensure that the other 60 percent around the world who are not connected get online fast? How can we make sure that the web supports all languages and cultures, not just the dominant ones? How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public? These are some of my questions—what are yours?

Some of my related questions:

  • The Internet now plays a large role in providing access to legal information and presumably plays a role in making justice accessible to everyone. How will we make the Internet accessible to everyone in Canada, including those in remote and northern areas?
  • Libraries play a big role in providing access to the Internet and increasing digital literacy of citizens. How will we support our libraries to continue with this work?

You can follow the discussion about keeping the Web open by following the #web25 tag on Twitter.

What are your questions?

Correction (March 13/14): The Internet is indeed older than the World Wide Web. Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea for the Web. I have corrected some of the details above.


  1. Not to be pedantic, but the Internet and world-wide-web are not one in the same. While the WWW is 25 years old, the Internet is older. Further, while Tim Berners-Lee may have invented the world-wide-web, he did not invent the Internet.

  2. Good point, Alex. I was participating on Bitnet and Net North in the 1980s which would have been the precursors. When I go back to read the messaging, you are right, they talk about the Web and not the Internet.

    The distinction is, what? The Web as a graphical interface?

  3. Not to be too pedantic, but it is the World Wide Web that the original announcement said is 25 years old.

    The Internet, which Berners-Lee did NOT invent, is rather older. Cerf and Kahn are generally regarded as the “Fathers of the Internet.”

  4. Here is CERN’s own story of the Birth of the web, including a link to the very first website ever. In fact if we want to be truly pedantic we could say that the Web only began in April 1993 when CERN put the WWW software in the public domain.