25 years of the World Wide Web

Lord Soley

Last Thursday Baroness Martha Lane-Fox previously, of Lastminute.com, introduced a debate to celebrate 25 years of the World Wide Web. Some months ago we had a short discussion about the importance of recognising the invention by Sir Tim Berners – Lee and the way it has changed our world. It was a really good debate – you can read it here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140116-0002.htm#14011662000942Time was short so I emphasised two points. Firstly I echoed Martha’s call for the government to come up with an event to celebrate Tim Berners – Lee’s World Wide Web and secondly I stressed the need for Parliament and politics to change our ways of working to keep up with rapidly changing technology. I gave the example of the legislation just 8 years ago controlling the interception of communications – it was technologically out of date before it received the Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament! This has now become part of the debate around the important issue surrounding the Snowden revelations. There are many other examples of legislation which have been overtaken by our fast changing world.
The way we do our politics also needs to become more interactive with a much wider community. The political parties are changing and I don’t underestimate what is already being done. Neither do I have any nice neat proposals for what else we can or should do.
So here are my requests:
1. How do you think we should celebrate the first 25 years of the World Wide Web?
2. Secondly, what changes could we bring in to change the way politics and our political institutions work?
3. And, very importantly, how can we involve a wider public in the political process?
No prizes – but I would like to hear your views.

17 comments for “25 years of the World Wide Web

  1. Lesley
    20/01/2014 at 1:43 pm

    I suggest holding an event bringing together 25 people (who are all aged 25) with a range of Parliamentarians and leading thinkers, to think about how the web could help to change the way politics and political institutions work.

  2. 20/01/2014 at 3:53 pm

    Lord Soley,
    Certainly the WWW has made the world a smaller room for conversation. while it did not come from nowhere and is always evolving, even not occuring in some addresses today it is a great innovation. Some claim it has done much for popular revolutionary movements. Our former VP, Nobel Prize Winner, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Award Winner and Presidential Candidate Al Gore once claimed to have invented the internet (nobody seems to know what he meant). Either the WWW or the internet or both are ubiquitous in business.

    Best of all, you have been the principal founder perhaps of the LOTB. While that is not quite the claim of inventing the internet it is important. I think that whatever WWW is the first nets were in American security and university applications. http://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet

    Thus in 1969 a real kind of internet occurred on a very small scale. Experimental devices existing in the 1950s. But certainly despite no clear lines the origin of the WWW package is well worth celebrating and it would be nice to know how much that particular protocol still controls all free traffic. I surely do not know.

  3. 20/01/2014 at 3:56 pm

    The best way to celebrate the first 25 years of the Web would be to use it more effectively for public services.

    The rationale is straightforward.

    The Web enabled the creation of applications designed to operate over the Internet to support virtual communities such as eBay, for trading, and facebook, for social networking. This was a creative wave, using computers and the Internet in ways not possible previously.

    Ubiquitous Web access enables a second, creative destruction, wave in that today’s myriad of legacy, organisation-centric, public service applications can be replaced by a few public service community applications. For example tens of thousands of General Practice, pharmacy and hospital applications can be replaced by a healthcare application.

    This would be more democratic, redesigned around the patient, more effective for the supply-side and reduce IT costs by over 90%.

    Compare this to the current situation in Digital Government, best illustrated by Universal Credit. On the one hand there is agile hacking advocated by GDS, and on the other systems integration advocated by the oligopoly of global Systems Integrators. Neither delivers as effective a solution.

    As Baroness Lane-Fox pointed out in her maiden speech “We need to talk about the web we want. We need to pause for breath and perhaps be more conscious of the next 25 years of development. At the moment we are sleepwalking, assuming that the platform underpinning so much of our daily life isn’t changing.”

    If we are to maximise the benefit of the Web then we need to embrace this digital redesign to public service community applications that fundamentally changes the underpinning platform.

    The new design would also deliver the platform to facilitate your last two points.


  4. Gareth Howell
    20/01/2014 at 8:35 pm

    need for Parliament and politics to change our ways of working to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
    You really only need to talk to the noble but not peer, Dr Williamson, whose expositions on e-technology for electoral purposes, are unbeatable. I have seen no others put forward the same basic, but thoroughly innovative ideas.

    Pin Sentry is foolproof. USE IT FOR Electoral purposes.

    The question of programmer power, in the context of historical literacy, and more especially digital literacy is very interesting indeed.

    Literacy in the hands of the few for centuries provided them with magical powers. Programming literacy may do the same for the mere literate generations, and yet the US/UK governments are intent on condemning such skills, insisting that they should not be looking! Julian Assange has been informed.

    The bank robber of recent days court appearance who stole 1.3m from Barclays is reminiscent of Communist/anarchist
    bank robberies of the 1890s to finance their international ambitions. The only problem that the gentleman in question is an avowed capitalist so perhaps he will be acquitted with a £3m bonus for owning up.

    There is no doubt that Snowden, Manning (bless ‘im/’er)Assange and all are in positions of power that Putin might have envied in his days as head of the KGB (before which incidentally I met him while he was Studying English in Sussex one summer).

    Assange has an eminent political future ahead of him, as an Australian Independent Republican, partly thanks to his programming skill.

  5. Gareth Howell
    21/01/2014 at 5:53 pm

    Electoral pin sentry would be issued to every person the electoral register to use as long as they have the right to vote.

    I have voted online in coop elections for some years but I am one of the very few who have; out of a few thousand voters only a handful using the Internet link to do so.
    If they’d had pinsentry, everybody with a mobile phone could have done so with the greatest of ease, and far more would have done, obssessed as people are with that particular gadget.

    Ten years on and now most of the backward peers are now using the internet for their research,study and e-mail. Ten years ago, everybody was but not the peers.

    Let’s celebrate with far greater dedication to the cause of
    e-democratic parliamentary elections, and others besides!

    An effective message board for all members run by say Speaker’s office would be good too, with self selected and moderated topics.

  6. maude elwes
    21/01/2014 at 11:16 pm

    We could celebrate 25 years of WWW with the removal of so called ‘safe seats’ and the subsequent fixing of our vote by introducing a system of ballot through our home or work PC. Safeguards can be set up and identification far better than the so called postal vote, which is open day for fraudsters. Now that would take us to the next move for Direct Democracy at a click of the mouse.

    Oh, happy day… A lot of gratitude to Tim Berners-Lee a brilliant Brit.


    • maude elwes
      23/01/2014 at 7:28 am

      And to add substance to a move toward a true democratic state we could vote for a party of ‘Direct Democracy’ who tell us it is more than possible and change would be simple.


  7. Lord Soley
    Lord Soley
    23/01/2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you for these comments. I will be discussing this issue with others and I will check out some of the ideas put forward. I am aware of pin sentry but I will need to find out more about the direction of travel suggested by John Alexander.
    On direct democracy (hello again Maude!) I have doubts. Complex issues often need complex responses not least in order to protect minorities. That doesn’t mean it has no role but I doubt if it can provide the overall approach implied.
    Thank you for your supportive comments Frank (hello again!).

    • maude elwes
      23/01/2014 at 2:04 pm

      Hello Lord Soley,

      How nice to have you here again. I missed your threads.

      Switzerland appear to do very well under their own steam with Direct Democracy and I don’t hear of any difficulties there with minorities. And really, why do we have minorities? Are you sure they are ‘in fact’ minorities because there appears to be an overwhelming ‘anti majority’ at present who are repeatedly ignored in favour of so called minorities. I am not convinced this is a good argument against Direct Democracy, the only Democracy that is true.

      Which, on the face of it is far better for us as a nation than the minority rule we presently have or UKIP for example. Which is where we are heading under the present order.

      Best wishes,


    • Lord Blagger
      23/01/2014 at 7:12 pm

      The majority need protection from the minority dictating to them.

      You just tell others what to do so to be hypocritical and say the minority needing protection that’s self interest.

      However, take note. Since you dictate, you are responsible.

      When that pesky 9,000 bn debt (pensions included) that you have run up needs to be paid, people will no doubt come looking for you.


      Here’s a hint. MPs running to the police because pensioners are after them. People will come looking for you and other Peers and MPs.

      After all, they haven’t been given any vote, so they, the population isn’t responsible. You are.

  8. Lord Soley
    Lord Soley
    23/01/2014 at 3:30 pm

    The minority that has to be considered in almost every Bill before Parliament are those exemptions we make so that law is flexible. For example if you asked people to vote on whether there should be development in the green belt they might well vote ‘No’ in a referendum. But there needs to be exceptions. Representative democracy allows for a wide ranging debate by people who put the case for exceptions. That is what I mean by minority – it is not just ethnic minorities or disability. It applies to taxation law, planning, housing and just about everything else.
    Democracy in the simple sense (majority rule) too often turns out to be ‘winner takes all’ – a seriously bad idea.

    • maude elwes
      23/01/2014 at 3:57 pm

      But, LS, winner is already taking all…. And has been for along time, leaving the lower half of the spectrum isolated and used as whipping boys for those in power. The fags have had enough. Time to shout loudly. An election is on the way and not one element of society is looking for more of the same, except tax ‘evaders’ of the corporate class.

      I don’t feel the public are as out of touch as you appear to suggest. They fully understand flexibility in all things.

    • tizres
      23/01/2014 at 10:34 pm

      Lord Soley, I’m veering towards the benign dictatorship model and I’m willing to consider your application. Does this work for you?

      Really pleased to see your return!

  9. 23/01/2014 at 6:17 pm

    Lord Soley,

    It is nice to see you back in fine fettle. I suppose there is a kind justified and fulfilled arrogance in the name “World Wide Web” which is not mirrored in the UK celebrations I have seen proposed. It seems much of the celebration and discussion is limited to impacts upon and implications for British society while the WWW is arguably the most global product of Britain despite British global influence already being as great as any other polity’s. Perhaps one ought to set up a place for study of implications for Europe, the USA, NATO, the Commonwealth, the G-8(or whatever number or numerical phrase is fashionable) and the U.N. Good and bad implications including how much more dangerous a simple global majority could be.

    The web dominates government services more and more every day in the US. I suppose the trend is similar in many other places.

    By the way Lord Soley, I think my comment had supportive and non-supportive phrases and so it is difficult to be sure where sarcasm and sincerity border in your response but I am glad to read your work again.

    In addition arrogance is certainly implied toward Al Gore but not so much as a sense of having caught someone saying the incomprehensible. For someone more openly, deliberately and outrageously arrogant one could look at:
    Your own achievements and those of the WWW founder/inventor are more substantively and objectively demonstrated than arrogantly proposed, I think.

  10. Bedd Gelert
    24/01/2014 at 6:23 pm

    Clive, This blog purports to tell us what is going on in the Lords and educate us on its processes.

    But I’m afraid it only offers a partial view. Someone once said that the best antidote to believing in the House of Lords was to see it in operation.


    If you don’t like the messenger of Guido Fawkes, what about from the pen of Sue Cameron ? A referendum in Gaelic and Doric ? That’s just what democracy needs ! Of course, you won’t publish my comment because you prefer to work in the dark. The most important issue of democracy that this isle has ever seen, and you resort to childish and anti-democratic filibustering. Shameful !


    The ‘lordly wreckers’ – no wonder you want to keep that under wraps..

  11. Lord Soley
    Lord Soley
    26/01/2014 at 11:22 am

    Wow!!! Do my beady old eyes deceive me or has Lady Tizzie been rebranded and relaunched as Tizres?

    • tizres
      26/01/2014 at 6:36 pm

      Curses! I was trying to discover where the ordinary people were…

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