Friday, February 01, 2013

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Advocates Web Apps at Linux Conference in Canberra

Greetings from Sir Tim Berners-Lee's keynote address on the last day of Linux Conference 2013. We are in the  Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University in Canberra. The hall is filled with conference delegates and government dignitaries. The introduction is being done by Simon Hackett. Simon brought along his Next computer, similar to that used for the first web server (there were some Next computers at ANU and I saw one in the CB1 CafĂ© in Cambridge in 1996). Simon pointed out that Sir Tim set up the W3C organization to foster web standards. In my view this was probably as important to its success as the original invention (just as the Internet Society fostered the Internet).

Sir Tim had the audiences on side even before speaking, by wearing the conference shirt.He pointed out that only one quarter of the world's population. Also most of the population can't code (like the majority of the conference delegates). He was making the point that many cannot access or create on the web due to language limitations, both technical and human.

Two issues Sir Tim touched on was that of the competition for the web from mobile "Apps". When information and services are provided via an App they are no longer accessible via the web. The Apps are locked away in separate systems and can't interact with the web. Sir Tim was advocating the use of web apps instead, which can be linked to and from, allowing the information to be found and knitted in. He nominated video chat embedded in the web as an exciting new feature. By using a standard web Api the web apps will be portable across platforms.

Sir Tim then talked about the activism by Aaron Swartz to make information freely available.  Part of the story I did not know was that public domain activist, Carl Malamud, worked with Aaron to put public domain material on the Internet. While explaining he is not a lawyer, Sir Tim expressed the view that Aaron had done no more than download a large number of academic articles, while prosecutors characterized him as a criminal hacker and threat to society.

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