Tim Berners-Lee has announced the formation of the World Wide Web Foundation, a new group awarded a $5m seed grant to advance the web and increase its openness.
“The mission of the Foundation is to advance a web that is free and open, to expand the web’s capability and robustness and to extend the web’s capabilities to all people on the planet,” Berners-Lee said at the launch of the group in Washington.
The Foundation is backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which pledged the $5m grant over a five-year period.
For Berners-Lee, the Foundation is a natural extension to the other work he has done in the advancement of the web.
He referred in his speech to the Web Science Research Initiative, which he set up in 2006, and the work done by the World Wide Web Consortium.
“When you think about how the web is today and dream about how it might be, you must, as always, consider both technology and people,” he said.
To address the people issue, the Foundation will look at the use, and potential use, of technology in undeveloped countries and the poorest regions of the world.
“Our success will be measured by how well we foster the creativity of our children. Whether future scientists have the tools to cure diseases. Whether people, in developed and developing economies alike, can distinguish reliable healthcare information from commercial chaff. Whether the next generation will build systems that support democracy, inform the electorate, and promote accountable debate,” Berners-Lee said.
The Foundation is currently in its initial planning phase, according to Steve Bratt, its chief executive, who called for more investment and support.
“I would like to invite those who share this vision for the web to become founding donors. With their support, we plan to launch the Foundation in early 2009 with an announcement of the first concrete steps toward fulfilling its mission,” he said.
In order to make the web more useful, Berners-Lee said that these first steps would be the funding of a number of projects around the world, and the establishment of three programmes in research, technology and social development.
“The web is a tremendous platform for innovation, but we face a number of challenges to making it more useful, in particular to people in underserved communities,” he explained.
“Through this new initiative, we hope to develop an international ecosystem that will help shape the future web. A more inclusive web will benefit us all.”
The Foundation hopes to pull funds and support from a number of areas, Berners-Lee added, explaining that it would bring together “business leaders, technology innovators, academia, governments, NGOs and experts in many fields to tackle challenges that, like the web, are global in scale”.