La bronca de Tim Berners-Lee

Publicado en el periódico El País: La bronca del padre de la web. El artículo es un poco tendencioso y exagerado (sólo hay que ver la fotografía que lo acompaña). Básicamente, el artículo quiere decir que Tim Berners-Lee, director del W3C,  está en contra de las redes sociales como Facebook.

En realidad, Tim Berners-Lee está preocupado por la fragmentación que puede crear en la Web el empleo de sistemas como Facebook, en el que la comunicación se realiza exclusivamente entre gente que forma parte de Facebook, lo que acaba con uno de los principios básicos de la Web: su universalidad. Un artículo como Tim Berners-Lee warns of threats against web explica mucho mejor el problema (la amenaza) que existe.

Entrevista a Tim Berners-Lee

En The Infinite History del MIT podemos encontrar una entrevista de Tim Berners-Lee de ¡86 minutos! En ella podemos conocer los orígenes de la Web de mano de su padre:

INTERVIEWER: Can you walk us through the story of the origins of the World Wide Web and HTML and how that thought process developed?

BERNERS-LEE: So I went for 2 years, I ended up there for 10 years. And during that time I had a number of projects in which I had an idea about how things could work. I put it out there and I needed volunteers from other groups to work on it. CERN didn’t have a very centralized hierarchical management structure because people came from different universities. Physicists came having designed pieces of equipment. And of course they had to collaborate very well because each piece of equipment had to fit together. Eventually be lowered down a few 100 meters below the surface and then work out of other extreme conditions. But all the same, it was not a military like place so people arrived with different computers. They used different documentation systems. So when you wanted to know what was going on you’d have to find– you’d typically have to be introduced to the person. So the coffee areas were really important. They still are and of course the coffee areas still are important, but at that time they were crucial because talking about things you’d get introduced to the people who’d written other pieces of the system or designed different pieces of the hardware. And then when you’d nailed them you’d try to remember their face and try to get a clue as to where they might’ve buried the documentation. What system it would be on. So back then, this is 1989 when I proposed the web. I’d thought about it for years beforehand. We got to the stage where computers were running different operating systems. There were Unix-based computers, VAX/VMS based computers and different flavors of Unix. Now there was a mainframe computer running its own operating system. So there were different flavors of software, different flavors of hardware. They were actually connected. The internet was just starting to become available. Although the people didn’t in practice transfer files very much from one computer to another. You could if you knew how. So if you knew somebody had written a document that you wanted and it was on another computer and as they were both connected to some sort of network with enough research and installing enough bits of program you could install things like Telnet, the remote login program on both and you could Telnet over to another system and run some programs there which would allow you to root about for the information. Eventually you could transfer it back to the terminal you were using. So that wasn’t really a great way to get information. But on the other hand, there was such a potential. There was so much information, which was actually sitting there on desks, going around and around, carefully prepared by somebody– lovingly prepared. Documentation of the part they had been working on for the last five years. Lovingly written up. With references to other documents, which again, we’d have to go through the same process to find. So once you had the idea that actually this could all be part of one virtual documentation system in which you just click when you want to follow a reference then it becomes pretty compelling. It was difficult to explain to people because the world was a paradigm shift. The idea is that you could get that any document could be available variable in a click was just too difficult to explain. Only a few people got it, but that was enough, a few time. Each time somebody would talk about it a few people would get it. The others would go away shaking their heads.


INTERVIEWER: Yeah, you can totally hide here. okay, so as this is going along you were increasing or you came to understand that there needed to be standards. And that led you actually to come to MIT, can you tell me how that happened?

BERNERS-LEE: Well the whole design of the web is standard. The reason it works, the whole initial architecture diagram of the web shows that you’ve got different servers, but the big connection bus, that the lead servers connected and different people, browsing clients, people using the data connecting into the top of it. And the connection buses is the fact that they all connect in exactly the same way. That each computers talks the same languages when you’re browsing and your computer asks the server somewhere for a webpage and pulls that in. The fact that they’ve all got to use the same language, HTML, that’s really important. That’s why it works. Now HTML started off as a really simple language. It was a one page specification. I just wrote it as I coded it up. Everything with the http protocol. The whole idea of having these names for each document that sometimes start http:, those are URLs or URIs. Those are the three pieces of the architecture of the web. The really important thing was that all the web browsers and servers speak the same languages. Initially, when it was just me, nobody looking over my shoulder, it was easy. I could just write them up. And I had a little webpage about HTML. A little webpage about http. As time went on and I got a visit while I was still at CERN from four people from Digital Equipment Corporation, among them Alan Kotok. Alan Kotok is, I didn’t know that he was very much a tremendously an MIT allowance, tremendous MIT enthusiast. But he worked for Digital Equipment at the time and he explained that the company was preparing to revise its whole product strategy because of the internet and the web. And the people he brought over were part of a committee, which was planning the response to the internet and he said, I believe that the system works and the specifications for the system are on some sort of disk somewhere in your office, I understand. So we’re a large computer company, we’d like to be involved in the future of those specs. We’d like to be able to think about what features they need in the future. We’d like to make sure about that. We’re concerned about the stability. So I asked him about what he thought would be a good way forward and he said, well for example, making a consortium. Like for example, the X consortium, which had looked after the X Window specifications. And I asked him, what form it take. And he said, well for example, you could base it somewhere like MIT. He said the X Windows consortium was based at MIT that it worked out very well for Digital. So something like that would work. That visit was followed by a number of months, a year or two for me. I did come over to MIT. Went to the lab for computer science for a month. I went to the West Coast, to Xerox Park. Stayed there for a month or so, a guest of Larry Masinter. And looked around. Went to see NCSA where Marc Andreesen was working on the Mosaic browser. And looked at different models for different platforms of consortium and so on. And that decided that yeah, Alan was right. When I talked to MIT and Al Vezza, Michael Detourzos knew how to do it. In fact, Michael was extremely supportive. Michael went to all trouble to meet me in Switzerland when he was on a trip back to Athens. We met in Zurich and in fact, I’d gotten his name from David Gifford. David Gifford I met at a networking conference in the north of England somewhere in a rainy day when we had to get a bus from one part of the country to another. I sat next to this guy, professor from MIT and he asked me, so what are you going to do with this web thing then? And I said, well I didn’t really know. He said, well you should talk to Michael Detourzos at the Lab for Computer Science. So I scribbled that down and said thanks. And I think David had previously just discussed this sort of thing with Michael. The fact there was a fairly deliberate plant for that e-mail address. I’ve had a lot of support from David and Michael turned out to be great. A huge person, large as life and twice as natural. And also very supportive. And very supportive of not only of doing it at MIT, but also making it into international thing. Making sure that it would have a leg in Europe because I really didn’t want to abandon Europe. That was very important to me and he talked to me and he saw completely eye to eye with me on that.

INTERVIEWER: Can you elaborate a little bit about what it was about MIT that seemed to make it the right place to do the consortium?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, for one. MIT was a place full of interesting people. So it was important for me to be somewhere where I could chat to people and I already had spent an amount as a guest of [? Camp Sullins ?] who would be working on network names and names in the network and things. I gave a talk. In fact, somebody came across a copy of the announcement of that talk, which I gave back in ’92. So full of interesting people. But more than that when it came to running the consortium they’d run the X Consortium. Al Vezza had put together the contracts for the X Consortium. He was prepared to do it again. So long as it looked pretty much like the X Consortium. If I wanted to make it something more like the United Nations he did not know how to do that. But if I wanted to make an industry consortium based at MIT then he did know how to do it. What was important for the consortium, is that from the industry point of view it should be neutral. It should be a place where different members of the industry can come together and talk about the future in such a way that they knew there was no inherent bias towards one of their products. So MIT, as an academic institution, and having done that very well for the X Windows system before that I think that was one of the things that MIT could produce. But also, it was the clout, there was a reputation. The fact that Al could pick up the phone, call five major computer companies and say, we’re doing a web consortium, are you in? And they call him back and say, yes. But it wasn’t instant as that. But it took a few months, but I think having it somewhere that was credible, with an international reputation as MIT was really important. Getting industry onboard, getting all of the industry onboard. Not just getting the people who happened to have come to MIT onboard. And also making it clear that the fact that there was going to be one web was really important. It had to be really good design. It had to be really fair between different industry. It also had to be very technically good and it had to be developed really rapidly. Because in those days the web products were turning over extremely rapidly. So it had to work faster than any of the consortia or any of the standard bodies that had worked in the past. So when MIT stood up and said that they were going to do that then people believe it and it happened.

Una pequeña entrevista al jefe ejecutivo de la W3C

Publicado en El País la entrevista La web nos ha dado a todos un enorme megáfono:

“La web nos ha dado a todos un enorme megáfono”

“Poder ver a tu nieto de cuatro años cantar vestido de bellota. ¿Hay algo más importante?”, clama Jeff Jaffe, tocado con su kipá, frente a su bandejita de comida kosher. El supermegajefe de www, consejero delegado de W3C, el consorcio World Wide Web, utiliza este ejemplo para explicar el impacto del vídeo en la Red. Salió de viaje hace tres semanas de Boston. Al día siguiente, su nieto debutaba en una obra de teatro en la guardería. “Dos generaciones atrás me lo habría perdido. Una generación atrás, me lo habrían grabado en vídeo y lo hubiera visto al volver. Ahora, lo veo al día siguiente. Ese es el poder del vídeo”.

– Y más pronto que tarde lo podrá ver en directo.

– Por supuesto.

Jaffe, norteamericano de 55 años, está de gira. Una semana y media en Europa, otra en Asia. Es, simplificando, el ejecutivo del que depende que Internet desarrolle su máximo potencial; el que sienta en torno a una mesa a los monstruos de la Red para que acuerden unos mínimos. Unas 400 firmas -Google, Yahoo, IBM, Telefónica, Siemens, universidades- pertenecen a esta organización sin ánimo de lucro que se financia al 80% con las cuotas de sus miembros.

– ¿Y qué opina del poder que acumula Google en la Red?

– No opino de compañías que forman parte de W3C.

Doctor en ciencias de la computación, Jaffe ha sido ejecutivo en IBM y asesor de Clinton. Es un señor con aire distraído que se pasea por todas partes arrastrando su maletita de ruedas. Su misión ahora es poner de acuerdo a los miembros del consorcio sobre cuál será el estándar de vídeo para el Html 5, la próxima versión del lenguaje de Internet. “El que todo el mundo pueda publicar en la Red va a ser el tema dominante en los próximos diez años”, vaticina.

Jaffe revuelve la bolsa de patatas kosher. “La web nos ha dado a todos un enorme megáfono”. La libertad de expresión, explica, ya no se limita a decirle lo que queramos al de al lado: lo podemos bloguear, decírselo a todo el mundo. “La tecnología potencia ese tipo de libertades”. Pero no todo el monte es orgasmo, que dice el chiste. Jaffe asume que el asunto privacidad es peliagudo. “La gente, cuando envía un e-mail, accede a una web o a una red social, no sabe cómo es de vulnerable su información personal. Los técnicos tienen que lograr mecanismos de control obvios e intuitivos”.

Su compañero de trabajo es el mítico Tim Berners-Lee, uno de los inventores de la web, el llamado señor www. “Es el visionario de nuestro tiempo. No sé si la gente se da cuenta de cómo un solo hombre ha transformado la sociedad”. Y explica cómo se resuelven los conflictos en W3C: cuando las empresas no se ponen de acuerdo y una de ellas se considera perjudicada, tiene derecho a apelar a Berners-Lee, que tiene derecho de veto. “Casi no lo usa”.

El coche que viene a buscarle ya azuza desde el aparcamiento. No hay margen para postres. Jaffe se levanta, se recoloca la kipá y recoge un poco su bandejita. Abandona la estancia con sonriente parsimonia, con ese aire de paseante risueño que arrastra su maletita de ruedas por el mundo.

Los peligros de Facebook

Una declaración del creador de la web: Berners-Lee: Social networks are a ‘threat to the web’ Facebook is walling off information. ¿Cuál es el peligro de las redes sociales y, en especial, de Facebook? La fragmentación que está produciendo y el poder que está adquiriendo. Y para muestra, esta noticia: Facebook, página de inicio (La red social empieza a incluir un botón para que el internauta la configure automáticamente).

Y un artículo muy interesante sobre qué es la Web y el futuro de la Web, también por Tim Berners-Lee: Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality.

Facebook, página de inicio

La red social empieza a incluir un botón para que el internauta la configure automáticamente

El creador de la Web critica duramente las leyes contra la piratería en Internet

Noticia extraída del periódico El País (22/11/2010):

El creador de la Web critica duramente las leyes contra la piratería en Internet

Tim Berners Lee acusa a Francia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos de cortar la libertad de los ciudadanos

El creador de la World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, premio Príncipe de Asturias entre otros innumerables galardones, en un largo artículo publicado en la revista Scientific American critica duramente las legislaciones de Francia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos aprobadas para luchar contra la piratería en Internet.

En el artículo titulado Larga Vida a la Web: una llamada por la neutralidad y la continuación de los estándares abiertos, Berners-Lee no se muerde la lengua y llega a comparar la violación de derechos humanos en China y otros países dictatoriales con el recorte de derechos en la Red que están sufriendo ciudadanos de democracias como Francia, Reino Unido y Estados Unidos. “Los gobiernos totalitarios no son los únicos que violan los derechos en la Red de sus ciudadanos”, recuerda el científico. “En Francia una ley creada en 2009, la llamada Hadopi, permite al Gobierno desconectar de Internet a un hogar durante un año si algún miembro de la casa es acusado por una empresa de haber cogido música o vídeo”.

Berners-Lee recuerda también que la Digital Economy Act del Reino Unido, aprobada en abril, le autoriza al gobierno ordenar a una ISP a que desvele el nombre de un abonado a Internet si aparece en una lista de sospechosos por haber infringido las leyes contra la propiedad intelectual. “En septiembre, el senado de Estados Unidos”, recuerda el inventor de la Web, “se aprobó la Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, que autoriza al gobierno a crear una lista negra de webs, con sede social en Estados Unidos o no, por haber sido acusadas de infringir los derechos de copyright. En todos esos casos, no se protege a la ciudadanos antes de que sean desconectados o sus páginas bloqueadas”.

Y acaba: “Dadas las diferentes maneras en que la Web es hoy crucial en nuestra vidas y en nuestro trabajo, la desconexión es una forma de privación de nuestra libertad. Volviendo a la Carta Magna, quizás deberíamos ahora afirmar: “Ninguna persona ni organización debe ser privada de conectarse a otros sin un proceso legal y sin la presunción de inocencia”.

20 años de la Web

Acabo de leer en El Mundo la noticia La Web cumple 20 años.

Sí, la World Wide Web, la Web, ya tiene 20 años. Algunas páginas con información muy interesante:

  • Information Management: A Proposal: la propuesta original que hizo Tim Berners-Lee en 1989. En aquel entonces no se llamaba World Wide Web, este nombre se le ocurrió posteriormente mientras escribía el código del primer navegador y servidor web en 1990.
  • El primer servidor web: este es el primer servidor web que se puso en funcionamiento a finales de 1990.
  • World Wide Web@20: celebraciones por los 20 años de la WWW.