Berners-Lee Lectures Congress on U.S. Digital Future

World-wide Web "inventor" Tim Berners-Lee made a rare public appearance last week to talk to federal legislators about the "digital future of the United States." In a session before the House Energy and Commerce committee, Berners-Lee said although the Web has passed "through its first decade of widespread use … we have only scratched the surface of what could be realized with deeper scientific investigation into its design, operation and impact on society."

Berners-Lee used the occasion to talk about the Semantic Web, a web of machine-addressable information that can be shared and reused across applications, enterprises, and communities.

The Semantic Web is "about being able to connect from one application, through another," he told the Committee. He used  the example of someone who cannot remember why they spent a certain amount when filling out their tax form. They could pull up a bank statement, take the date, and pull that up on their personal calendar. If they still don't see why they spent the money that day, they could drop their photographs into the calendar and "see the pictures of the kids at Disneyland."

To study the Semantic Web, Berners-Lee helped create the Web Science Research Initiative at the University of South Hampton in the U.K. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which Berners-Lee founded, is also working on the components of the Semantic Web.

The Web's next most important application is likely being dreamed up somewhere by someone, "quite likely a woman," Berners-Lee said.

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House Committee on Energy and Commerce

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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