The honour comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google.

Inventor of World Wide Web wins computing’s ‘Nobel Prize’

The honour comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google.

Most people who search on Google, share on Facebook and shop on Amazon have never heard of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. But they might not be doing any of those things had he not invented the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee, 61, is this year’s recipient of the A.M. Turing Award, computing’s version of the Nobel Prize.

The award, announced Tuesday by the Association for Computing Machinery, marks another pinnacle for the British native, who has already been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and named as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century by Time magazine.

“It’s a crowning achievement,” Berners-Lee said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I think the award is for the Web as a project, and the massive international collaborative spirit of all that have joined me to help.”

The honour comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, one of many companies that made a fortune as a result of Berners-Lee’s efforts to make the internet more accessible. He managed that largely by figuring out a simple way to post documents, pictures and video — everything, really, beyond plain text — online.

Spinning the web

Starting in 1989, Berners-Lee began working on ways digital object could be identified and retrieved through browser software capable of rendering graphics and other images. In August 1991, he launched the world’s first website, http://info.cern.ch .

Besides coming up with the web’s technical specifications, Berners-Lee “offered a coherent vision of how each of these elements would work together as part of an integrated whole,” said Vicki Hanson, president of the Association for Computing Machinery.

In an even more significant move, Berners-Lee decided against patenting his technology and instead offered it as royalty-free software. That allowed other programmers to build upon the foundation he’d laid, spawning more than a billion websites today that have helped lure more than 3 billion people online.

CAUGHT IN THE WEB

The web’s widespread appeal gratifies Berners-Lee, who now splits his time shuttling between the U.S. and Britain as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford.

But he fears parts of the web will become less accessible in the U.S. if the Federal Communication Commission dismantles regulations protecting “net neutrality.” That’s the principle that internet service providers should treat all websites equally instead of favouring some destinations that might be willing to pay for special treatment.

If the Trump administration tries to dump net neutrality, “it’s going to have a fight on its hands because I think the American people realize it’s important,” Berners-Lee said. “It allowed America to benefit from a thriving internet market for connectivity and content. It has become part of the spirit of America.”

Berners-Lee also worries about governments around the world using the internet as a surveillance tool, calling it a “recurrent threat.” He admits that preserving personal privacy as technology advances remains a thorny problem, one that he doesn’t have a ready solution for. But figuring that out is “really important to the future of society,” he says.

“As an individual, I should be able to keep my own notes, keep my own journal and not share it with anybody. That is just part of being a person.”

Beyond the web

Like several other prominent figures in technology, Berners-Lee isn’t sure if humanity will be better or worse off as computers grow better at thinking like people via artificial intelligence.

“Computing has grown exponentially more powerful, so It’s only logical that it will get to the point when computers will become smarter than us,” Berners-Lee said. “So, yes, we should logically think about those consequences.”

This is the 50th anniversary of the A.M. Turing award, named after English computer scientist Alan Turing, whose revolutionary work with early computers and artificial intelligence helped crack Nazi Germany’s codes during World War II. Previous award winners include Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, who did some of the pioneering work on the internet that Berners-Lee spun into the World Wide Web.

 

 

Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press

Just Posted

North Delta Huskies honour former captain as provincial banner unveiled

NDSS’s championship win marks the school’s first senior boys provincial basketball title in 29 years

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

Surrey-North Delta Meals on Wheels in ‘desperate’ search for new partner

Without a new kitchen found by Sept. 1, the charity says it won’t have food to deliver to those in need

Cloverdale Toastmasters celebrate 25 years of learning and laughter

Cloverdale club is a high achieving, yet laid-back Toastmasters group

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

B.C. man faces deportation over father’s honour-killing conviction

Father lied to immigration, was later acquitted of charges in Jassi Sidhu’s murder

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Men caught with illegal gun near Burnaby elementary school

They were sitting in a parked car near Cameron Elementary

Home care for B.C.’s elderly is too expensive and falls short: watchdog

Report says seniors must pay $8,800 a year for daily visits under provincial home support program

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s ‘Infidelity Hotlist’

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Most Read