Every woman, girl, boy, man – and their dog – on the internet today no doubt owes a massive debt of gratitude to Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1989 invented the World Wide Web (WWW), while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN.
Berners-Lee ostensibly had no idea he was kicking off an economic and social revolution as he was doing this – since his intent at the time was to enable and facilitate automated information sharing between scientists around the world, as CERN points out.
The Switzerland-based institution, meanwhile, played a key role in making sure the web actually caught on and changed the world the way it has done by making it public domain and open license software.
Now, on the web’s 31st birthday, Berners-Lee – who in the past quipped that the thing, replete with cat memes, hadn’t quite turned out the way he, a dog lover, expected – was in no mood for jokes, and instead had an alarmist thought to spare about “women and girls,” as the Guardian reports.
According to him, women and girls are confronted with “a growing crisis” on the web, where they are “forced out of jobs, caused to skip school” and endure other ills like damaging relationships and silencing of their opinions.
There’s a not particularly fine line to walk between coming across as “woke” and coming across as patronizing – and it seems that the iconic figure of the inventor of the web might just be crossing it as he assumes the role of a spokesman and makes a grand declaration that the web is “not working for women and girls.”
In his open letter on the 31st anniversary of the web, he specifies that it is especially not working for women and girls “of color, from LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalized groups.”
According to current statistics, about 58% of the world’s population have access to the web and use it.
Berners-Lee, however, talks about “the digital divide” which he says “keeps more than half of the world’s women offline.” It’s unclear where his numbers are coming from, and/or if he might be suggesting the world’s overall offline population is made up almost entirely of women.
But the Guardian found a voice supporting his stance – that of Colombia-based Fundacin Karisma who said “women’s rights defenders and female journalists are targeted for abuse more than most.”