Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Web inventor warns of 'dark' net
By Jonathan Fildes
BBC News science and technology reporter in Edinburgh
The web should remain neutral and resist attempts to
fragment it into different services, web inventor Sir
Tim Berners-Lee has said.
Recent attempts in the US to try to charge for
different levels of online access web were not "part
of the internet model," he said in Edinburgh.
He warned that if the US decided to go ahead with a
two-tier internet, the network would enter "a dark
Sir Tim was speaking at the start of a conference on
the future of the web.
"What's very important from my point of view is that
there is one web," he said.
"Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that
their piece looks very boring."
An equal net
The British scientist developed the web in 1989 as an
academic tool to allow scientists to share data. Since
then it has exploded into every area of life.
However, as it has grown, there have been increasingly
diverse opinions on how it should evolve.
The World Wide Web Consortium, of which Sir Tim is the
director, believes in an open model.
This is based on the concept of network neutrality,
where everyone has the same level of access to the web
and that all data moving around the web is treated
This view is backed by companies like Microsoft and
Google, who have called for legislation to be
introduced to guarantee net neutrality.
The first steps towards this were taken last week when
members of the US House of Representatives introduced
a net neutrality bill.
But telecoms companies in the US do not agree. They
would like to implement a two-tier system, where data
from companies or institutions that can pay are given
priority over those that cannot.
This has particularly become an issue with the
transmission of TV shows over the internet, with some
broadband providers wanting to charge content
providers to carry the data.
The internet community believes this threatens the
open model of the internet as broadband providers will
become gatekeepers to the web's content.
Providers that can pay will be able to get a
commercial advantage over those that cannot.
There is a fear that institutions like universities
and charities would also suffer.
The web community is also worried that any charges
would be passed on to the consumer.
Sir Tim said this was "not the internet model". The
"right" model, as exists at the moment, was that any
content provider could pay for a connection to the
internet and could then put any content on to the web
with no discrimination.
Speaking to reporters in Edinburgh at the WWW2006
conference, he argued this was where the great benefit
of the internet lay.
"You get this tremendous serendipity where I can
search the internet and come across a site that I did
not set out to look for," he said.
A two-tier system would mean that people would only
have full access to those portions of the internet
that they paid for and that some companies would be
given priority over others.
But Sir Tim was optimistic that the internet would
resist attempts to fragment.
"I think it is one and will remain as one," he said.
The WWW2006 conference will run until Friday at the
International Conference Centre in Edinburgh.