Amaxus con webdoc_10773


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Amaxus con webdoc_10773

  1. 1. THE WEB: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD With a computer you can pretty much do anything and with the web you can doalmost anything you could possibly imagine said Sir Tim Berners-Lee, chief architectof the World Wide Web, at the start of this years prestigious BCS Lovelace lecture,held at Londons Congress Centre. Justin Richards reports.His lecture examined the ideas behind the origins of the internet and web andconsidered how things might continue to develop in future.The number of web pages now exceeds the population of the planet and this numbercontinues to grow exponentially, year on year. Berners-Lee indicated that moreshould be done to monitor this growth and to nurture developments which improvethe users experience. In fact web science is a new multi disciplinary science whichSir Tim Berners-Lee is championing, although research projects under this bannerhave only just begun.Computer science can largely be seen as an engineering discipline, one originatingfrom physics, which itself has been known as philosophical engineering. Byexamining microscopic rules and macroscopic behaviour one can describe anddefine how computers operate and the connections between them.Designing a systemA system exists when there is communication between two computers. Physics canpropose the microscopic model and relate it to the macroscopic purpose. The sameprinciple applies for computer science and the web. However, modelling will onlywork so far before real world complications have to be factored in.Creativity is crucial to engineering, but more importantly is collaboration betweenpeople. For example, the first websites had instructions to make other web pagesand little else on them. However, it was because of this free advice that the internethas grown as more and more enthusiasts took up the baton and ran with it. In fact British Computer Society - The Web: Looking back, looking forward -1-
  2. 2. throughout the first three years the web saw constant exponential growth.The twin magics for the creation of the web have been collaboration and creativity.However, even before the web there was the internet; 20 years before in fact.Within this system the need to communicate was fulfilled by the use of internetmessaging, which operated on a store and forward SMTP principle, and was usedmainly by friendly academics.Email developed between not only interconnected academics but also throughout thegeneral public as there became a greater dependence socially and for business ontechnological communication. Unfortunately, with increased traffic comes increasingnumbers of problems including spam and cyber-crime.WWW and universalityTims goal as a software engineer had simply been to help people communicate andtransfer data/information between one another efficiently.He wanted to find a means to move documents between computers regardless ofwhat system they were running or what make of computer they had. Hence, by usingURL, HTTP, and HTML he was able to produce a Hypertext + net system whichretained incentives to help people further down the line.Over time there was a massive web explosion but people still got lost within the mazeof the internet and couldnt find stuff. Tim wanted to get them there more efficiently.The web had to be approachable and usable by all. Experts talked about mainframeswhile most people just switched off - they didnt have access to mainframes at homeso it didnt apply to them.Likewise he didnt want a situation where providers were charging users 2p for eachlink used or to make it language specific. In designing the web Berners-Lee wantedto ensure the quality of the information and universal access.LayeringThe internet was designed independent of application, regardless of whether a useris sending an email, using FTP, or voice. Likewise the web was also designed to beindependent of application, whether its being used for shopping, browsing,participating or searching.Right from its foundation technologies through to its ceiling technologies the web hadto be comprised of royalty free standards with a clean interface, one which makes noassumptions and is flexible for all its users needs.Originally it was thought that one couldnt index the web. However, the Googlesearch engine has come close to doing so, by analysing the link structures andmaintaining them during its search.Wiki phenomena British Computer Society - The Web: Looking back, looking forward -2-
  3. 3. Originally Tim didnt think that people would be able to read the web without beingable to create new pages themselves. Now users can edit pages, while sticking toguidelines set by each particular wiki site.The most famous example is Wikipedia, which has to be both democratic andautocratic, where necessary, following running battles amongst its contributors. Wikisforce us to ask the question how can we all collectively be smarter than any one ofus?Semantic webThis term is actually about data sharing, where through the use of URLs and linksinterested parties can share ontologies of information, and therefore gain access tomore relevant information. One aspect of the semantic web would be to use thesame URL for both latitude and longitude. This is still very much in its infancy and ismainly used for social networking.Within the semantic web everything has a URL. One doesnt just say colour onesays You can make up your own terms and takeownership of that term, thus emphasising the concept of definitive meaning. Thesemantic web will provide layers for people to illustrate what web functions we cantrust.What defines the web?The web is where anything can be connected to anything else; hence the use of aspiders web to illustrate it is probably not very accurate! Spider webs have a definitecentre, a definite pattern - the web does not.Society consists of many different types of community at different levels. A universalweb must reflect this and include communities on many different levels, includingthose relating to work, home and play. Society is complicated and the web mustmirror this. The web is structured on many levels and is perhaps best described as afractal tangle.The question is who will create all the future ontologies? We cant assume that theywill be spread across orders of magnitude, and that if you do your bit others will dotheirs. However, on the positive side, creating ontologies requires a small, finiteamount of time, time which will shrink if we all collaborate.Web science - the challengesTechie geeks have created software products that dont always have the customer inmind. The user-interface is a significant challenge since this should have a generalityenabling users to browse any data anywhere. They should also be able todynamically pick up from ontologies, allow independent control and blowspreadsheet tools away with their user-friendliness.Other significant challenges include data policy (identity, privacy, and transparency);resilience (social breakage, e.g. phishing: internet breakage, e.g. slash-dotting; web British Computer Society - The Web: Looking back, looking forward -3-
  4. 4. breakage, e.g. Error 404); and new devices.With the cost of pixels going down, we now have a greater diversity in their usagewith pixels now beginning to replace neon, for example in Times Square. There isgreater emphasis on portable devices, particularly in developing countries, andmobile technology will continue to grow exponentially as the industry calls on outerlayers of web technology and transfers it into pixel technology.IntercreativityBy creating together, both the top and bottom magics can be brought to bear on thefractal tangle that is the web. A new geography of free connectivity with more intuitiveinterfaces and new forms of democracy can be created with increased collaborationand intercreativity.Ultimately, advances are most regularly achieved through the connection of peopleshalf formed ideas, whether they are scientific, political or cultural.QuestionsWhen asked whether he regretted not establishing an intellectual copyright on theownership of the web, to prevent its misuse and sometime lack of democracy, heresponded by saying he had no regrets since there could be no compromise if peoplewish to have a web which works as it should do.One cant establish a system where you have one rule for one person and anotherrule for others. If he had copyrighted it the whole web would not have taken off, atleast not in the same way it has. It certainly wouldnt have attracted the amount ofvoluntary contributions it has done.Berners–Lee was also asked whether web developers have aided the democraticprocess. He felt that eBay was a good example of peer opinion on services andindividuals. His dream would be that politicians would say something and one of theiraids would create a wiki to allow people to have their say on that subject in response.Sir Tim doesnt entertain a Terminator view of a future world where machines have athinking power equal to that of humans. When asked about the future of machines hereplied that he foresaw chips gaining greater ability than neurons but didnt see itextending to emergent behaviour.More likely increasingly bizarre human behaviour will cause there to be a rise of cultsleading to the destruction of mankind from within ourselves. He did, however, feelthat web science does have a responsibility to monitor the way society interacts withthe web.Finally, in response to a question about increased professionalism within the industryleading to a greater degree of trust, he stated that people building systems have tobe aware of the laws of creation and of its consequences. Perhaps this was a fittinglast word from someone who is the creator of an artefact which has changedcivilisation on a massive scale. British Computer Society - The Web: Looking back, looking forward -4-
  5. 5. - Watch a video stream of the lecture- BCS Lovelace Lecture and Medal27 March 2007 British Computer Society - The Web: Looking back, looking forward -5-