In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, English computer scientist and the creator of the World Wide Web, couldn't have predicted that people would be using his idea to spread the word about the Arab Spring uprisings, or raise thousands of dollars to create a product. His goal was simple: he wanted a way to help people find and keep track of information more easily.
Nearly 27 years later, the World Wide Web has grown beyond the single server that Berners-Lee created to become a much larger and more influential entity. But there's one thing that continues to worry Berners-Lee--that some organizations are trying to limit people's ability to access certain types of content on the internet.
"It's been great, but spying, blocking sites, re-purposing people's content, taking you to the wrong websites--that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create," Berners-Lee tells the New York Times.
That's why this week, Berners-Lee and other powerful individuals in tech are hosting an event called the Decentralized Web Summit to discuss ways to give individuals more privacy, and more control over what they can access on the web. They want to find a way to stop governments from blocking certain web pages for example, and find more ways for people to pay for things on the internet without handing over sensitive credit card information.
Berners-Lee also told the Times that he's concerned about how the rising dominance of tech giants, such as Amazon, Google, and Twitter, is discouraging competition among companies that deal with the web, and stemming a more diverse flow of ideas.
"The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging," he says. "We don't have a technology problem, we have a social problem."
Berners-Lee and others sketched out their ideas for a few technological solutions that they believe could help decentralize the web. They think it would be beneficial for more websites to adopt a ledger-like style of payment, such as Bitcoin, to give people more control over their money.
Another one of the Decentralized Web Summit's organizers, Edward Kahle, has also created an Internet Archive, which can store discontinued websites and multiple versions of a web page. Those are small steps, but it's a move back in the direction of Berners-Lee's original version of the World Wide Web: a place where anyone can find the information they need--anytime, anywhere.