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Musings on the Documentary “For Everyone”

I recently watched the documentary “For Everyone”, which tells the story about Tim Berners Lee and the creation of the World Wide Web.

There were a number of nuggets in this documentary, and I would recommend it to anyone who works on the web, but I wanted to capture a few small things that stood out to me.

First, this was Tim Berners-Lee on his idea for the web:

[I realized] I would have to create a system with common rules that would be acceptable to everyone. That meant as close as possible to no rules at all.

It’s interesting to see how the ethos present in the person who birthed the web was instilled into online culture from the very beginning. Berners-Lee believed the web should be open and he gave away the protocols that powered it. There was no patent. No licensing around who can and can’t create a website. It was all put into the public domain. And that openness, in the very protocols of the web, has been a thorn in the foot of for-profit ventures ever since.

I mean, just think about all that’s happened on the web around copyright infringement—Napster perhaps being the most prolific embodiment. If Berners-Lee had desired to make money off the web, that desire would’ve been built into the protocols and DNA of the web from the very beginning, likely resulting in a very different web than we have today—one where the likes of Napster would have never even existed because some form of centralized control would’ve been built in to the platform.

But that’s not what Berners-Lee aspired to. He aspired to a system “for everyone”.

The legacy that Berners-Lee left in the very DNA of the web, and continues to leave in his advocacy of the open web, is perhaps one of the most unrecognized treasures of the web:

to figure out what you’re curious about and pursue it and enjoy when it has an impact on others...if you've done something interesting...and worry less about whose name is being inscribed where for having done it, that seems to me one of the gifts that Tim [Berners-Lee] is offering in the way which he has handled his own role in the explosion of the web.

I think it’s pretty neat to see how the virtues espoused by advocates of “the open web” were all existent—In the Beginning—and embodied in the original creator of the World Wide Web.

Thank you Tim.