Tim Berners-Lee: A Magna Carta for the web

TED is 30. The world wide web is celebrating this month its 25th anniversary. So I’ve got a question for you. Let’s talk about the journey, mainly about the future. Let’s talk about the state. Let’s talk about what sort of a web we want. So 25 years ago, then, I was working at CERN. I got permission in the end after about a year to basically do it as a side project. I wrote the code. I was I suppose the first user. There was a lot of concern that people didn’t want to pick it up because it would be too complicated. A lot of persuasion, a lot of wonderful collaboration with other people, and bit by bit, it worked. It took off. It was pretty cool. And in fact, a few years later in 2000, five percent of the world population were using the world wide web. In 2007, seven years later, 17 percent. In 2008, we formed the World Wide Web Foundation partly to look at that and worry about that figure. And now here we are in 2014, and 40 percent of the world are using the world wide web, and counting. Obviously it’s increasing. I want you to think about both sides of that. Okay, obviously to anybody here at TED, the first question you ask is, what can we do to get the other 60 percent on board as quickly as possible? Lots of important things. Obviously
it’s going to be around mobile. But also, I want you to think about the 40 percent, because if you’re sitting there yourself sort of with a web-enabled life, you don’t remember things anymore, you just look them up, then you may feel that it’s been a success and we can all sit back. But in fact, yeah, it’s been a success, there’s lots of things, Khan Academy for crying out loud, there’s Wikipedia, there’s a huge number of free e-books that you can read online, lots of wonderful things for education, things in many areas. Online commerce has in some cases completely turned upside down the
way commerce works altogether, made types of commerce available which weren’t available at all before. Commerce has been almost universally affected. Government, not universally affected, but very affected, and on a good day, lots of open data, lots of e-government, so lots of things which are visible happening on the web. Also, lots of things which are less visible. The healthcare, late at night when they’re worried about what sort of cancer somebody they care about might have, when they just talk across the Internet to somebody who they care about very much in another country. Those sorts of things are not, they’re not out there, and in fact they’ve acquired
a certain amount of privacy. So we cannot assume that part of the web, part of the deal with the web, is when I use the web, it’s just a transparent, neutral medium. I can talk to you over it without worrying about what we in fact now know is happening, without worrying about the fact that not only will surveillance be happening but it’ll be done by people who may abuse the data. So in fact, something we realized, we can’t just use the web, we have to worry about what the underlying infrastructure of the whole thing, is it in fact of a quality that we need? We revel in the fact that we
have this wonderful free speech. We can tweet, and oh, lots and lots of people can see our tweets, except when they can’t, except when actually Twitter
is blocked from their country, or in some way the way we try to express ourselves has put some information
about the state of ourselves, the state of the country we live in, which isn’t available to anybody else. So we must protest and make sure that censorship is cut down, that the web is opened up where there is censorship. We love the fact that the web is open. It allows us to talk. Anybody can talk to anybody. It doesn’t matter who we are. And then we join these big social networking companies which are in fact effectively built as silos, so that it’s much easier to talk to somebody in the same social network than it is to talk to somebody in a different one, so in fact we’re sometimes limiting ourselves. And we also have, if you’ve read
the book about the filter bubble, the filter bubble phenomenon is that we love to use machines which help us find stuff we like. So we love it when we’re bathed in what things we like to click on, and so the machine automatically feeds us the stuff that we like and we end up with this rose-colored spectacles view of the world called a filter bubble. So here are some of the things which maybe threaten the social web we have. What sort of web do you want? I want one which is not
fragmented into lots of pieces, as some countries have been suggesting they should do in reaction to recent surveillance. I want a web which has got, for example, is a really good basis for democracy. I want a web where I can use healthcare with privacy and where there’s a lot of health data, clinical data is available to scientists to do research. I want a web where the other 60 percent get on board as fast as possible. I want a web which is such
a powerful basis for innovation that when something nasty happens, some disaster strikes, that we can respond by building stuff to respond to it very quickly. So this is just some of the things that I want, from a big list, obviously it’s longer. You have your list. I want us to use this 25th anniversary to think about what sort of a web we want. You can go to webat25.org and find some links. There are lots of sites where people have started to put together a Magna Carta, a bill of rights for the web. How about we do that? How about we decide, these are, in a way, becoming fundamental rights, the right
to communicate with whom I want. What would be on your list for that Magna Carta? Let’s crowdsource a Magna Carta for the web. Let’s do that this year. Let’s use the energy from the 25th anniversary to crowdsource a Magna Carta to the web. (Applause) Thank you. And do me a favor, will you? Fight for it for me. Okay? Thanks. (Applause)

Comments 99

  • I'm sorry… I'm trying to watch and I can barely understand him.

  • He could've been the richest man alive.

  • As cool as this would be quantum computing would be easier.

  • Holy crap, he sounds like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh

  • Jeez, I'm a month older than the internet…

  • tetch

  • The web I want is one where the number of ISPs in a location aren't restricted by government.

  • 1:59  . "Higer end students"

  • He's nuts!

  • Seriously TED, you couldn't grant the www's inventor more than 6:30?

  • Refreshing to hear such an influential figure share these thoughts. Excellent talk.

  • Agreed!

  • I kept expecting him to reference Cat Videos.

  • Britain (Westminster) is in the process of junking Magna Carta for the same reasons that the US has already junked it by abrogating Habeas Corpus. Trusting the Brits to protect & sustain individual rights any longer is laughable considering both regimes consider individual rights as a relic of previous ages & thus, irrelevant in any Charters suitable for the Post Modern Age.  

  • You know TED, I think if you are going to post a video to show everyone it may be a good idea to consider including website addresses that may be presented within the content in the description.

  • No! No magna carta for the web, if you're going to have any bill of rights, its a simple one of don't harm others.
    We don't need a list of regulations for greedy politicians to spoil our internet experience.

  • I used to have to remember lots of formulae, facts, and even word spellings, but as I've gotten older and my memory less reliable (I think), this tool becomes more and more important to me. Thanks, Tim.

  • Anyone know where I can download one of these free 5 million eBooks ? (Android devices only)

  • I gave up on understanding him halfway through the video. I guess geniuses aren't always good speakers as well.

  • I like his voice y'all are weird.

  • He did a great job, for 2014 he's not saying anything special, though. He's saying the same that anyone who cares about the Internet and the last crumbs of freedom available to us says. Which is fine, maybe his name will make it carry weight with decision-makers.


  • I thought it was about a big map of the web… Which would have been way more interesting to me.

    I knew magna meant "great" but I thought carta meant "map" since in French carte means "map"…


  • I want whatever he's taking.

  • Um, why can't we just continue freely using it organically?  Perhaps the problem is the government…the elephant in the room which he never mentioned directly.  If there was no big government, this talk would be baseless and everyone could just continue using the internet to enhance their lives without fear or need for 'laws' of the internet.

  • he sounds a little confused. 2:51 i guess his career was a one hit wonder. 

  • Berners-Lee did not invent the world wide web. CERN did.

  • Is everyone who uses the internet under surveillance right now, or is he talking about sometime in the near future?

  • It just goes to show how desire for power over everything is how many governments operate. No one can invent anything anymore and expect to have any right over how it works or who it belongs to. The internet is just one example.

  • I was part of the 5% in 2000 🙂

  • What happened to the Semantic web ?

  • The function of the nation state is to control people on the lower strata of society for the interests of the few in the top strata.  There's no way the people working within these organizations are going to let people perceived to be a threat to such control communicate freely.  Even human rights are conditional and can be removed at the whim of the state.

  • "Governments are ruining the web … let's make a government for the web"

    -That's what I'm getting from this TED talk. If that's not what he meant, could someone explain? Because it sounds idiotic to me.

  • Warning!

  • I hate it that clicking the "thumbs up" makes me feel like I did something towards towards creating the "web magna carta"…

  • Great points, but this guy needs to slow down and not slur his words together when he speaks. 

  • Fantastic video. A web by the people for the people. I suppose that's the dream we are fighting for!

  • No one person invented the internet.

  • Does Tim Berners-Lee have Parkinson's or some other neuromotor disease?

  • The Magna Carta had the backing of an army. This is a pointless pursuit.

  • The web should not be governed by the rules or laws of any particular country (such as America/Britain)  the internet is its own country.

  • 666 likes? omg

  • Somebody forgot his meds… lol XP

  • Wow.  I wish he practiced this presentation prior to being video taped. He's all over the place with his thoughts.

  • I can't take this guy. Something is going on with him his speech is cryptic and he moves like he has some kind of ticks going on. Possibly some kind of autism, I don't know that it is just a guess. In any event he is a terrible public speaker.

  • I want automated distribution of power with Internet providers. The Internet was created as ARPANET to withstand neuclear disaster because it can route communications through alternate nodes if some node(s) have gone down (i.e. blown up). We need to employ this idea in the way that Internet access is given. Huge corporations like AT&T, Comcast, etc. should not have so much power over the function of the Internet. It should be more distributed. It should be mandatory.

  • अंतराष्ट्रीय संजाल मानवजाति के विचारों को एकजुट करने के मंच प्रदान करता है । यही इसके राजपत्र का आधार होना चाहिये ।
    InterNet provides mankind with a platform to unite its  thoughts. This is what should be central theme to build magna carta .

  • Why does the rest of the world needs to be connected to the web as well? we  should know by now that the rulers dont just let these big weapons go public.

  • He looks wacked out on the pills, too twitchy… or nervous!

  • Totally respect this guy and his invention of the web, and his mind … but man, he is hard to listen to because he is so jumpy and jerky and his voice goes all over the place.  Is he OK, or just nervous?  I've seen better talks from him before.

  • 0% ability of speaking in public. 

  • he seems very nervous

  • Everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet…

  • I think he meant fight this fight "with me", because "for me" sounds like hes not willing to fight. If we go this route we will end up appointing heads of the internet and we will ruin it all over again. I say leave it. If you dont want anyone knowing your personal life then dont post private things about yourself online. Call your friends and send them photos of yourself through the mail or encrypted email. Oh wait we did used to do this and it was awesome.

  • This has to happen.

  • I can easily understand him but he seems a bit on edge.

  • Tim, I don't think you've embraced or thought of the importance of the WWW. Your contribution level to the human race is at a all time high.

    Thank you sir

  • Haha you guys need to try watching this with english subtitiles 😀 Its hilarious! 

  • Let's sign this petition ! https://www.change.org/p/the-whole-world-magna-carta-for-the-web?

  • The link has been abandoned it seems.

  • lol who is this kid

  • faut aller chez l’orthophoniste ce n'est plus possible fdp

  • 43 people love democracy, North Korea style!

  • перевод сука где

  • This Man is Remarkable what he did is mind blowing . People have become billionaires off his invention crazy and all great benefits also

  • Why is he speaking so weirdly ?

  • is he on cocaine?

  • What you need to understand is that CERN has the ability to travel in time. I didn't know about this joker until today. He did not invent the WWW in my timeline. He was handed info from time travellers. This is a serious matter!

  • I want Rights Freedom of expression is … The Universal Right to Free Expression: … receive and impart information and ideas …

  • thanks lee for a great idea. the web

  • What about Al gore

  • To anyone complaining about the way he speaks go and do better I dare you bet you cant i admit I can't he invented something we use everyday and cant live without who cares he speaks

  • I'm British, but why does he speak like that? Sounds kinda hard to follow, must be more difficult still for Americans and Canadians.

  • inonative ideas by him

  • what a terrible speaker

  • Geniuses are usually quite eccentric.

  • tim te estoy buscando , soy seba , necesito encontrarte


  • This man should be treated like a king

  • hes the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.

  • Ajit Pai is a better speaker… just saying the villains are more appealing.

  • It is weird to think that you wouldn't be watching this video, if it wasn't for this guy.

  • 4:53 threats, concerns, hopes for future. Don't bother with webat25 site; abandoned. (:-( Found this Mashable article, though: https://mashable.com/2015/06/15/magna-carta-digital-age-internet/

  • Tim is a fucking liar. He didn't invent anything. He is a stooge for the cia. You poor fools who think he is a great man believe the fake newspapers too easily. Your reference to the real facts will be found at american intelligence media yt channel where you are given a proper analysis.

  • A 'Magna Carta' for the World Wide Web? What a brilliant idea!

  • Legend!

  • Philosopher fight: Slavoj Zizek attacks Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker at Cambridge Union

    Published time: 23 Nov, 2018 13:27

  • The meeting of the minds of science & arts.

    Yellow vest Einstein the renaissance.

    Academicians have progressed, now they understand the value of a non-academic mind, an imaginary mind often is put aside, for been too wild. Is never too late, however today the academic minds, concepts and certainties of facts, brings us now on the relativity of time to a further union of sciences from psychology to philosophy the academic sponsors must understand the value of imagination on their sponsoring endeavor. And embrace the renaissance of the meeting of the minds of science & arts.

  • ‘Hands off Venezuela’: Rally held in Caracas to support 10mn-signature petition drive (VIDEO) I fell is the label Magna Carta that the "media, democracy, dislikes/ they rather have POMPEO rules and BOLTON LAWS.

  • Yep, this guy has Asperger's.

  • streaming social media debates on all subject free of choices no restriction from Palestine to sudan, yellow vest to Venezuela to supreme court

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee only has a net worth of $50,000,000 yea that's 50 Million Dollars according to Therichest.com. That doesn't sound like a lot for a dude that founded the internet. In my opinion, he and his family should be worth a lot more considering that fact that since founding the Internet in 1989 hundreds of Millions of Companys have made 100's of Trillions of Dollars and I have been able to connect with my family all around the world all thanks to the guy that founded the internet. I started this GoFundMe page trying to raise $1 from 100 Million people to share my thanks and am hoping you all do the same.


  • Literally just thumbed down because I can barely understand him. I cannot believe I have to write an assignment on this bullshit.

  • BREXIT MAGNA CARTA FOR THE WEB **MAGNA CARTA FOR THE WEB//, not well yes BREXIT +++++++! Facebook responds to breakup call, demands government regulation of Internet

    Published time: 9 May, 2019 21:18

  • Let´s fight for it for Tim Berners-Lee!!

  • Algorithms​ are destroying your invention . Please make them stop. We are not robots !!

  • Tim Berners-Lee has create the high level protocols for the WEB, there's lots of people that have contribute for the birth of the WEB: Joseph LickLider, Larry Roberts, Paul Baran, Donald Davies, Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn and much more!

  • Is he okay?

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