Tim Berners-Lee addresses first Amadeus T3CH conference in Madrid
Prepare for a more beneficent de-centralised internet, web inventor tells travel firms
Travel firms should be ready to react to the emergence of a decentralised internet where people control their own data, according to the inventor of the World Wide Web.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the first Amadeus T3CH conference that a dystopian internet has been created by algorithms replacing human recommendations about what people should read online.
He told the two-day travel technology event in Madrid this week that consolidation online has seen the rise of monopoly providers and that this has stifled innovation.
Berners-Lee cited the election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit referendum in the UK as examples of how this new internet has subverted his original vision of the “wonderfully collaborative” web that existed during the first decade of its existence.
“There was a time when the mode of people using the web was everyone had their own website, their own blogs. I would try to make my blog as good as possible and people would reward me by linking to it.
“I only linked to blogs I thought were worth linking to so good links spread. For the first ten years…you would benefit from everyone else putting their knowledge and insight in the world and it seemed we were getting something for nothing and humanity was building this wonderfully collaborative space.
“Now, if you talk to kids, the world you see is one which has had consolidation. They are all on social networks, they don’t have their own websites or blogs. What they read is determined by the algorithm in the social app.
“So as a result, this wonderful feedback loop of the blogosphere has gone. We are left with a web that’s become more and more dystopian.
“Consolidation itself is always bad for innovation. You have monopoly providers you have to be working for to innovate. It’s only if you work for the monopoly that you get your ideas in their products.”
Berners-Lee added: “People are frustrated. They may not be old enough to remember the old web but, as millennials, they can imagine a world which is better, where they are first class citizens, where they are in charge of how they access their own information.
“And kids, they will seize that and they will protest and above all they will code, and they are coding. They are building decentralised systems where they are not being spied on by the older generation and the corporate generation.
“Change is out there and you need to be aware. We need to be conscious of the dysfunctional world. We need to be aware of something that’s just really not delivering value to users. If it’s not delivering value it will one day be replaced by something.”
Berners-Lee said moving towards an online world that is more respectful of its users “would be something really more positive to talk about” adding: “We owe it to the next generation.”
He is leading a project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Solid which he said will ‘re-decentralise’ the web by giving users a secure place to store their data and allow brands to access that in exchange for their products and services.
These Personal Online Data Store (PODS) will give users back control of their data and they would then buy apps from trusted brands which would be able to see the data they need to provide a personalised and relevant holiday offer.
Berners-Lee said in this decentralised web world “this is an app that works for me, you can give it access to all the data you have” including passport and identity information, previous travel activity, health data like allergies, preferences, and social media posts and photos which can be combined with demographic data to generate relevant recommendations.
“If you write a programme that respects the user it will enable you to access their data. The users gets access to all flights, all deals, then it talks to the user because it knows much more about them. It moves to a position of trust with the user.
“The idea is in this world we have re-decentralised things. The whole thing has been turned upside down or as I see it the right way up. We are going back to the notion that the computer will work for me.
“In many sectors people have tried and failed to get interoperability between suppliers. Maybe Solid could do that. At the moment if you are working in the ad-funded world your job is to distract the user to get them to buy something. Siri does not work for me, Alexa does not work for me. They work for different companies to maximise profits.
“I would pay for an app that figures out what vacation I should go on and will be collaborative. An app that really works on my behalf which looks at all the offers on my behalf will make it easier for me to find that next vacation. It’s going to be very precise because it will have so much data.
“We are looking at a world where the industry become more efficient. App will talk to each other and would share information with each other once they have established that trust. If you build a website that will guarantee it will find the best deal for me, if I can trust it, then I will trust it with a lot more data.
“A beneficent programme is one that works for you. To a certain extent this is a world we are trying to build.”