The self-effacing inventor of the world wide revolution
Saturday, November 28th, 2009
What would the web look like today if Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch had poured their resources into creating the html and http protocols and built the first web browser? Would their thirst for monetising everything they touched, have meant that the web became another commercial channel? How would we feel if we made a micro-payment to the great god Sky or Microsoft every time we went online? Instead we should treasure Tim Berners-Lee. He could have been wealthier than Croesus, but chose not to make a penny from his invention. He made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. His unselfishness and philanthropy makes Rupert Murdoch seem very small indeed.
Two degrees of separation department. One of my Quaker friends, Joy Williamson, used to work at Ferranti computers in the 1950s. I talked to her about the web after Meeting one day. ‘Oh yes’, she replied casually ‘We knew Conway and Kate [Berners-Lee] very well. Tim was a delightful baby. I used to bounce him up and down on my knee.’ I almost dropped my coffee cup. I cannot imagine a Knight of the Realm and holder of the Order of Merit being bounced up and down on anyone’s knee today.