Social networks threaten the web, says its founder

Facebook and Apple are a threat to the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns today, twenty years after the creation of the web.

In an essay in Scientific American, the founder of the web says that many of the world’s most successful tech companies are in danger of turning the web into a series of fragmented islands.

“Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals,” he writes. “Governments — totalitarian and democratic alike — are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.”

Berners-Lee singles out social networking sites in particular,  expressing concern that any one site could become so big that it’s effectively a monopoly – ideas as to who he’s talking about, anyone? He also criticizes them for refusing to give users control over their own data.

“The isolation occurs because each piece of information does not have a URI. Connections among data exist only within a site. So the more you enter, the more you become locked in,” he says. “Your social-networking site becomes a central platform — a closed silo of content, and one that does not give you full control over your information in it.”

Finally, Berners-Lee calls for net neutrality for all types of web access – in conflict with current US plans.

“It is… bizarre to imagine that my fundamental right to access the information source of my choice should apply when I am on my Wi-Fi-connected computer at home but not when I use my cell phone,” he says.