“Humanity connected”

That’s the motto of Tim Berners-Lee’s latest initiative, unveiled yesterday. The World Wide Web Foundation seeks:

to advance One Web that is free and open,

to expand the Web’s capability and robustness,

and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet.

Worthy goals that won’t be reached without effort and good policy choices (see for example Jonathan Zittrain’s worrying message about the future of the internet). From Berners-Lee’s opening speech:

Our success will be measured by how well we foster the creativity of our children. Whether future scientists have the tools to cure diseases. Whether people, in developed and developing economies alike, can distinguish reliable healthcare information from commercial chaff. Whether the next generation will build systems that support democracy, inform the electorate, and promote accountable debate.

This last point is expanded upon in a BBC interview. Berners-Lee is worried that the web enables effective distribution of disinformation. The web is a good tool for cults and all kinds of enemies of reason. I think this is a built-in problem, and Berners-Lee’s ideas here — “new systems that would give websites a label for trustworthiness once they had been proved reliable sources” — sound unpractical and exceedingly difficult to manage. But let’s wait until we see what that initiative is really about.

Related: An article by Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt in Scientific American: Web Science: Studying the Internet to Protect Our Future.