WWW2007: Sir Tim Berners-Lee on “The Two Magics of Web Science”

Note: These are rough notes from the WWW2007 conference.

At the beginning of the conferences, there was a big bunch of energy but then it died down.  It was confused whether to be a trade show or an academic show.

The Web and the papers hasn’t always fit into core Computer Science, sociology, or economics.

What’s interesting is the jump between the micro to the macro of the Web.

There are so many things that have been built for the Web everyday.  Within engineering, you design a system and protocols.  The Web works because of social rules and social conventions.  It plays within the system.

If you look at the Web at the macro-level, it’s a phenomenon.   We’re not very good at looking at the macro-level.  We need to see if we’re achieving our issues based on our values.

Part of why we’re here is to discuss the macro level issues.  We can deal with these issues based on our creativity to come up with great ideas, solving problems.

The two areas of magic are the understanding between the macro and micro level of understanding of the Web and the creativity which allows you to solve the big problems.

The model is that we have the science, understanding the problems, and the engineering, creating the solutions,  of the Web.  E-mail really followed the path of having social and technical design issues.  It used both science and engineering.

The idea of the WWW started from a high-level problem that needed a micro-level engineering solution.  The WWW created new high level problems that needed microlevel solutions.

It created the problem of not being able to find stuff.  This is where the Google guys came in.  They engineered a solution based on who was linking to who.  This caused people to use the Web in an entirely different way.

You can look at blogs, wikis, and the Semantic Web.  They all started with problems.  It drove engineering solutions which drove new problems.

The Web has to be a Web because everything is connected together.  Prior to the Web, everything was pretty linear.  Everything was in matrices, tables, and trees.

The shape of the Internet is a net.  You may cut one link but the net still holds together.   There is always a certain amount of redundancy.

What shape is the Web?  The Web is much more lumpy.  It is a fractal tangle.  The Web should be a fractal tangle.  We should engineer for it.

There are some challenges in Web Sciences.

  • User Interface: how are we going to allow people to visualize the data that we present?  They need to be able to slice, dice, and make new queries.
  • Information Policy: How do we do this stuff responsibly?  How do you trust something?  How do you express trust in a machine readable fashion?
  • Resilience: There is internet breaking (slashdotting).  There is 404 because of lack of URL persistence.  There is spam and wiki spam because there are psychopaths.
  • Collective quality assessment: All over the Web, people are playing with new democratic systems.
  • New devices: Cell phones are becoming ubiquitous.  Will your identity be held in your cell phone?
  • Collective creativity: We need to find a way to connect our half formed ideas together with other peoples half formed ideas.

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