Message 02544 [Homepage] [Navigation]
Thread: oxenT02544 Message: 1/1 L0 [In index]
[First in Thread] [Last in Thread] [Date Next] [Date Prev]
[Next in Thread] [Prev in Thread] [Next Thread] [Prev Thread]

[ox-en] Fwd: IHT: The father of 'www' finally gets his due


I'm sending this less for the money issue but for the other
interesting insights.

------- Forwarded Message

Date:  Tue, 15 Jun 2004 17:56:29 [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED]
From:  "Volker Grassmuck" <vgrass>
Subject:  [wos] (Fwd) IHT: The father of 'www' finally gets his due
To:  wos
Message-Id:  <40CF384D.9688.ADFDFA localhost>

The father of 'www' finally gets his due
Victoria Shannon/IHT IHT  Monday, June 14, 2004
HELSINKI  <>If Tim Berners-Lee
had decided to patent his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different

Instead, the World Wide Web became free to anyone who could make use of it.
Many of those who did became rich: Jeff Bezos (, Jerry Yang
(Yahoo), Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and Marc Andreessen (Netscape).

But not Berners-Lee, 49, a British scientist working at a Geneva research
lab at the time.

That is why some people think it is fitting - or about time - that he
finally becomes wealthy, with the award Tuesday of the world's largest
technology prize, the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish
Technology Award Foundation. The E1 million, or $1.2 million, prize for
outstanding technological achievements that raised the quality of life is
supported by the Finnish government and private contributors.

"It was a very nice surprise," Berners-Lee said in an interview Sunday as
three days of ceremonies began here.

Pekka Tarjanne, the former director general of the International
Telecommunication Union who led the awards selection committee, said it was
"surprisingly easy" to settle on Berners-Lee as the prize's first recipient,
despite the 78 nominations and the eight judges on the committee.

The Internet has many fathers: Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who came up with
a system to allow different computer networks to interconnect and
communicate; Ray Tomlinson, the creator of e-mail; Ted Nelson, who coined
the term hypertext; and scores of others.

But only one who conceived of the World Wide Web (originally, Berners-Lee
called it a "mesh" before changing it to a "web"). Before him, there were no
browsers, no hypertext markup language, no "www" in any Internet address, no
URLs, or uniform resource locators.

Because he and his colleague, Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, insisted on a
license-free technology, today a Gateway computer with a Linux operating
system and a browser made by Netscape can see the same Web page as any other
personal computer, system software or Internet browser.

If his then-employer, CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in
Geneva, had sought royalties, Berners-Lee believes the world would have 16
different "webs" on the Internet today.

"Goodness knows, there were plenty of hypertext systems before that didn't
interoperate," Berners-Lee said. "There would have been a CERN Web, a
Microsoft one, there would have been a Digital one, Apple's HyperCard would
have started reaching out Internet roots. And all of these things would have
been incompatible."

Software patenting today, Berners-Lee says, has run amok. In April,
Microsoft was awarded a U.S. patent for the use of short, long or
double-clicks on the same button of a hand-held computer to launch
applications, according to a report earlier this month on And
Microsoft said last week it was appealing a $521 million judgment - the
second-biggest patent-infringement award - won by a Chicago company called
Eolas Technologies over plug-in applications in Internet browers.

In 2000, BT Group tried to pursue royalties on "hyperlinking," and in 2002 patented a way to shop online with a click of a mouse button.

"The problem now is someone can write something out of their own creativity,
and a lawyer can look over their shoulder later and say, 'Actually, I'm
sorry, but lines 35 to 42 we own, even though you wrote it,'" said
Berners-Lee, who is director of the World Wide Web Consortium based at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"What's at stake here is the whole spirit in which software has been
developed to date," he said. "If you can imagine a computer doing it, then
you can write a computer program to do it. That spirit has been behind so
many wonderful developments.

"And when you connect that to the spirit of the Internet, the spirit of
openness and sharing, it's terribly stifling to creativity. It's stifling to
the academic side of doing research and thinking up new ideas, it's stifling
to the new industry and the new enterprises that come out of that."

In Europe, software patenting has drawn fierce debate for more than a year.
The original proponent of a law to harmonize European Union patent rules is
reportedly now ready to withdraw it. The chief executives of some of
Europe's biggest technology companies - Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, Philips
and Alcatel - warned the EU last fall that E15 billion of their combined
annual research and development spending could be wasted if software is not

Berners-Lee takes the position of many academics in this debate. "It's
really important that they put tremendous restrictions on or complete
abolition of software patents," he said of the European Parliament's

"If there really is a patent for something that is software, the bar for
novelty should be serious," he said. "The idea that a patent is awarded by
default because the patent office is overwhelmed, which happens in the
United States, is tremendously damaging."

In America, the fact that the federal Patent and Trademark Office issued a
preliminary finding in March that would invalidate the Eolas patent claim,
he said, "is a very important step. Now we have to look at the general
system. In the States, the situation will need a huge change."

Despite his strong opinions on the subject, Berners-Lee doesn't want to take
on patent reform as his cause.

His work on the next iteration of the World Wide Web - the so-called
semantic Web, which will categorize links and searches so that they are
relevant - takes most of his time.

James Fallows, a national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and a
frequent writer on technology, wrote a couple of years ago that it was a
"scandal" that Berners-Lee never became rich from his creation.

In an interview Sunday, Fallows said, "I don't know if he feels
scandalized" - Berners-Lee said he does not - "but he's certainly the
notable exception to the general rule. He's the classic example of somebody
putting the public interest before his own."

Tarjanne said the Finns wanted it the Millennium Technology Prize to be on
the same order of magnitude as the Nobel prizes, worth 10 million kronor, or
$1.3 million each and awarded annually in neighboring Sweden.

But Berners-Lee said the money won't change anything now.

"I don't think we're going to do anything crazy with it," he said. "We'll
keep it for boring suburban things like the education of our children and
that sort of thing. And we've needed a new kitchen for a long time."

International Herald Tribune

- --
   Wizards of OS 3, 10-12 June 2004
   copy = right

- --
Wos mailing list

------- End of Forwarded Message

Organization: projekt

Thread: oxenT02544 Message: 1/1 L0 [In index]
Message 02544 [Homepage] [Navigation]