Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's TimBL up to these days?

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, pretty much universally known as TimBL, is one of the few people who can actually lay claim to having invented a major new technology. By defining HTTP, URLs and HTML, and by implementing the first web server and browser and the first web page, he created the foundations of The Web As We Know It. Since then he has spent a great deal of time directing the W3C, pondering the semantic web and web architecture in general, and otherwise moving the web.ball forward.

That was about the extent of my knowledge until I ran across a press release stating that British PM Gordon Brown had appointed him to lead the new Institute of Web Science. From the press release it looks like this will be at least to some extent an extension of the semantic web work, but will also investigate "other emerging web and internet technologies", provide technical guidance to HM government and work on opening government data (MP expenses, anyone?) to public use.

So, good stuff, we'll see what comes of it.

Brown also announced that all Britons would have "high-speed broadband" by 2020. Not just broadband, but high-speed. Whatever that means.

[That was a couple of governments ago, and I see no mention of any Institute of Web Science on TimBL's personal page.  Broadband in the UK seems to be faring rather better, but I'm not really that familiar with the topic. -- D.H., May 2015]

Personal note: I had the pleasure of (sort of) meeting Sir Tim a few years back when I was sitting on standards committees -- a saga in itself. I was very new to the game and had volunteered to scribe (committee-speak for "take notes"). The W3C Technical Architecture Group had stopped by to look in on what our group was doing, so whenever a member of the TAG whose name I couldn't remember made a comment, I notated it as having been said by "TAG". After a while someone gently pointed out that TAG's name for much of what I'd been scribing was Tim Berners-Lee. Fortunately I was too busy typing to sink into the floor, and I have since been assured that TimBL himself was unlikely to have been offended. At least I hope not.

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