Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web (a.k.a. "the web"), spoke at a global conference on a pressing matter.
Tim insisted that mobile operators and internet service providers must not be allowed to break the ultimate web principle: "net neutrality." For the unfamiliar, net neutrality means that "there should be no favouritism for connecting to certain sites online," as the Guardian describes it.
Adamant about the topic in his speech, and duly so as it's his own creation we're debating over here, Tim said that net neutrality must remain firmly in tact. But Google, for an immediate example, is pushing Tim's buttons, favouring traffic to a certain mobile carrier (Verizon).
"Most of us work at a higher level," Tim told the conference in London. "We assume that when we look up a web address and the domain name to get that page that you can get any page because that's how it's always been."
But "A lot of companies would love to limit that," he added.
If they're trying to sell you movies streamed online, they'd like to slow down your access to other people's movies, so you'd come back to them. If they sell you telephone services, they'd love to block voice-over-internet connections, or just slow it down so you decide it's not a very good technology and go and use theirs instead. They'd like to tell you where to buy your shoes by slowing down the service to one site but not another.
War over net neutrality has been most intense in the U.S., where megafirms like Google tend to reside and wield immense web-power.
Tim's reasoning for net neutrality was both logical and somewhat poetic:
If you let [net neutrality] go, you lose something essential—that any innovator can think of a new idea, a new data format, a new protocol, something completely novel, and set up a site at some random place and let it take off through word of mouth, and make a business, make a profit, and help humanity in a particular way and it takes off.
Sure, you have to buy a domain name, but they're pretty cheap. And once you have that you don't have to register your server with anyone central. You don't have to pay money to every mobile phone operator to make sure people can get your site. That's really important.