Tim Berners-Lee – or Sir Tim, since receiving a knighthood in 2004 – will mark the 25th anniversary of his invention of the World Wide Web by hosting an open question and answer session on Reddit.
Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) forum format is a simple exchange where a notable person, or a person in a notable situation, offers to answer questions posted by Reddit users in a moderated discussion. Tomorrow, Berners-Lee will be both those things – as a recipient of many honours as inventor of the World Wide Web (including recently being awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering), and as a person concerned about the increasing level of Internet surveillance and censorship.
“I am Tim Berners-Lee. I invented the WWW 25 years ago and I am concerned and excited about its future,” he posted to Reddit.
— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 7, 2014
Berners-Lee worked at Swiss laboratory CERN as a fellow in 1989, at the time the largest Internet node in Europe. He wrote a proposal to join hypertext with the Internet and went on to design the first Web browser/editor, WorldWideWeb, and the first Web server.
The British computer scientist went on to found the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994, where he’s still the director today. It remains the standard-setting organization for the industry. Web browser makers use W3C’s standards to render web sites in order to look the same for all users. A key reason for the web’s wide adoption was the W3C’s decision to openly share its standards, instead of licencing its technology for a fee.
More recently, Berners-Lee has spoken out against the National Security Agency (NSA)’s surveillance of Internet use revealed in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Describing the surveillance as an intrusion on basic human rights, he says the government’s actions are a threat to democracy. He also calls on web users to ask for better protection against surveillance and to demand better accountability.
Berners-Lee is bound to touch upon the topic during his AMA at 3 PM ET on March 12. Many of the questions posted early to the Reddit forum ask about some aspect of government surveillance or the need for more decentralization on the web.
While he may have invented the web, Sir Tim couldn’t escape the chastisement of Reddit moderator “roastedbagel” for creating an announcement post for the AMA – apparently you’re supposed to have moderators place it on a calendar of scheduled AMAs.