Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data

Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data


Time flies. It’s actually almost 20 years ago when I wanted to reframe the way we use information, the way we work together: I invented the World Wide Web. Now, 20 years on, at TED, I want to ask your help in a new reframing. So going back to 1989, I wrote a memo suggesting the global hypertext system. Nobody really did anything with it, pretty much. But 18 months later — this is how innovation happens — 18 months later, my boss said I could do it on the side, as a sort of a play project, kick the tires of a new computer we’d got. And so he gave me the time to code it up. So I basically roughed out what HTML should look like: hypertext protocol, HTTP; the idea of URLs, these names for things which started with HTTP. I wrote the code and put it out there. Why did I do it? Well, it was basically frustration. I was frustrated — I was working as a software engineer in this huge, very exciting lab, lots of people coming from all over the world. They brought all sorts of different computers with them. They had all sorts of different data formats, all sorts, all kinds of documentation systems. So that, in all that diversity, if I wanted to figure out how to build something out of a bit of this and a bit of this, everything I looked into, I had to connect to some new machine, I had to learn to run some new program, I would find the information I wanted in some new data format. And these were all incompatible. It was just very frustrating. The frustration was all this unlocked potential. In fact, on all these discs there were documents. So if you just imagined them all being part of some big, virtual documentation system in the sky, say on the Internet, then life would be so much easier. Well, once you’ve had an idea like that it kind of gets under your skin and even if people don’t read your memo — actually he did, it was found after he died, his copy. He had written, “Vague, but exciting,” in pencil, in the corner. (Laughter) But in general it was difficult — it was really difficult to explain what the web was like. It’s difficult to explain to people now that it was difficult then. But then — OK, when TED started, there was no web so things like “click” didn’t have the same meaning. I can show somebody a piece of hypertext, a page which has got links, and we click on the link and bing — there’ll be another hypertext page. Not impressive. You know, we’ve seen that — we’ve got things on hypertext on CD-ROMs. What was difficult was to get them to imagine: so, imagine that that link could have gone to virtually any document you could imagine. Alright, that is the leap that was very difficult for people to make. Well, some people did. So yeah, it was difficult to explain, but there was a grassroots movement. And that is what has made it most fun. That has been the most exciting thing, not the technology, not the things people have done with it, but actually the community, the spirit of all these people getting together, sending the emails. That’s what it was like then. Do you know what? It’s funny, but right now it’s kind of like that again. I asked everybody, more or less, to put their documents — I said, “Could you put your documents on this web thing?” And you did. Thanks. It’s been a blast, hasn’t it? I mean, it has been quite interesting because we’ve found out that the things that happen with the web really sort of blow us away. They’re much more than we’d originally imagined when we put together the little, initial website that we started off with. Now, I want you to put your data on the web. Turns out that there is still huge unlocked potential. There is still a huge frustration that people have because we haven’t got data on the web as data. What do you mean, “data”? What’s the difference — documents, data? Well, documents you read, OK? More or less, you read them, you can follow links from them, and that’s it. Data — you can do all kinds of stuff with a computer. Who was here or has otherwise seen Hans Rosling’s talk? One of the great — yes a lot of people have seen it — one of the great TED Talks. Hans put up this presentation in which he showed, for various different countries, in various different colors — he showed income levels on one axis and he showed infant mortality, and he shot this thing animated through time. So, he’d taken this data and made a presentation which just shattered a lot of myths that people had about the economics in the developing world. He put up a slide a little bit like this. It had underground all the data OK, data is brown and boxy and boring, and that’s how we think of it, isn’t it? Because data you can’t naturally use by itself But in fact, data drives a huge amount of what happens in our lives and it happens because somebody takes that data and does something with it. In this case, Hans had put the data together he had found from all kinds of United Nations websites and things. He had put it together, combined it into something more interesting than the original pieces and then he’d put it into this software, which I think his son developed, originally, and produces this wonderful presentation. And Hans made a point of saying, “Look, it’s really important to have a lot of data.” And I was happy to see that at the party last night that he was still saying, very forcibly, “It’s really important to have a lot of data.” So I want us now to think about not just two pieces of data being connected, or six like he did, but I want to think about a world where everybody has put data on the web and so virtually everything you can imagine is on the web and then calling that linked data. The technology is linked data, and it’s extremely simple. If you want to put something on the web there are three rules: first thing is that those HTTP names — those things that start with “http:” — we’re using them not just for documents now, we’re using them for things that the documents are about. We’re using them for people, we’re using them for places, we’re using them for your products, we’re using them for events. All kinds of conceptual things, they have names now that start with HTTP. Second rule, if I take one of these HTTP names and I look it up and I do the web thing with it and I fetch the data using the HTTP protocol from the web, I will get back some data in a standard format which is kind of useful data that somebody might like to know about that thing, about that event. Who’s at the event? Whatever it is about that person, where they were born, things like that. So the second rule is I get important information back. Third rule is that when I get back that information it’s not just got somebody’s height and weight and when they were born, it’s got relationships. Data is relationships. Interestingly, data is relationships. This person was born in Berlin; Berlin is in Germany. And when it has relationships, whenever it expresses a relationship then the other thing that it’s related to is given one of those names that starts HTTP. So, I can go ahead and look that thing up. So I look up a person — I can look up then the city where they were born; then I can look up the region it’s in, and the town it’s in, and the population of it, and so on. So I can browse this stuff. So that’s it, really. That is linked data. I wrote an article entitled “Linked Data” a couple of years ago and soon after that, things started to happen. The idea of linked data is that we get lots and lots and lots of these boxes that Hans had, and we get lots and lots and lots of things sprouting. It’s not just a whole lot of other plants. It’s not just a root supplying a plant, but for each of those plants, whatever it is — a presentation, an analysis, somebody’s looking for patterns in the data — they get to look at all the data and they get it connected together, and the really important thing about data is the more things you have to connect together, the more powerful it is. So, linked data. The meme went out there. And, pretty soon Chris Bizer at the Freie Universitat in Berlin who was one of the first people to put interesting things up, he noticed that Wikipedia — you know Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia with lots and lots of interesting documents in it. Well, in those documents, there are little squares, little boxes. And in most information boxes, there’s data. So he wrote a program to take the data, extract it from Wikipedia, and put it into a blob of linked data on the web, which he called dbpedia. Dbpedia is represented by the blue blob in the middle of this slide and if you actually go and look up Berlin, you’ll find that there are other blobs of data which also have stuff about Berlin, and they’re linked together. So if you pull the data from dbpedia about Berlin, you’ll end up pulling up these other things as well. And the exciting thing is it’s starting to grow. This is just the grassroots stuff again, OK? Let’s think about data for a bit. Data comes in fact in lots and lots of different forms. Think of the diversity of the web. It’s a really important thing that the web allows you to put all kinds of data up there. So it is with data. I could talk about all kinds of data. We could talk about government data, enterprise data is really important, there’s scientific data, there’s personal data, there’s weather data, there’s data about events, there’s data about talks, and there’s news and there’s all kinds of stuff. I’m just going to mention a few of them so that you get the idea of the diversity of it, so that you also see how much unlocked potential. Let’s start with government data. Barack Obama said in a speech, that he — American government data would be available on the Internet in accessible formats. And I hope that they will put it up as linked data. That’s important. Why is it important? Not just for transparency, yeah transparency in government is important, but that data — this is the data from all the government departments Think about how much of that data is about how life is lived in America. It’s actual useful. It’s got value. I can use it in my company. I could use it as a kid to do my homework. So we’re talking about making the place, making the world run better by making this data available. In fact if you’re responsible — if you know about some data in a government department, often you find that these people, they’re very tempted to keep it — Hans calls it database hugging. You hug your database, you don’t want to let it go until you’ve made a beautiful website for it. Well, I’d like to suggest that rather — yes, make a beautiful website, who am I to say don’t make a beautiful website? Make a beautiful website, but first give us the unadulterated data, we want the data. We want unadulterated data. OK, we have to ask for raw data now. And I’m going to ask you to practice that, OK? Can you say “raw”? Audience: Raw. Tim Berners-Lee: Can you say “data”? Audience: Data. TBL: Can you say “now”? Audience: Now! TBL: Alright, “raw data now”! Audience: Raw data now! Practice that. It’s important because you have no idea the number of excuses people come up with to hang onto their data and not give it to you, even though you’ve paid for it as a taxpayer. And it’s not just America. It’s all over the world. And it’s not just governments, of course — it’s enterprises as well. So I’m just going to mention a few other thoughts on data. Here we are at TED, and all the time we are very conscious of the huge challenges that human society has right now — curing cancer, understanding the brain for Alzheimer’s, understanding the economy to make it a little bit more stable, understanding how the world works. The people who are going to solve those — the scientists — they have half-formed ideas in their head, they try to communicate those over the web. But a lot of the state of knowledge of the human race at the moment is on databases, often sitting in their computers, and actually, currently not shared. In fact, I’ll just go into one area — if you’re looking at Alzheimer’s, for example, drug discovery — there is a whole lot of linked data which is just coming out because scientists in that field realize this is a great way of getting out of those silos, because they had their genomics data in one database in one building, and they had their protein data in another. Now, they are sticking it onto — linked data — and now they can ask the sort of question, that you probably wouldn’t ask, I wouldn’t ask — they would. What proteins are involved in signal transduction and also related to pyramidal neurons? Well, you take that mouthful and you put it into Google. Of course, there’s no page on the web which has answered that question because nobody has asked that question before. You get 223,000 hits — no results you can use. You ask the linked data — which they’ve now put together — 32 hits, each of which is a protein which has those properties and you can look at. The power of being able to ask those questions, as a scientist — questions which actually bridge across different disciplines — is really a complete sea change. It’s very very important. Scientists are totally stymied at the moment — the power of the data that other scientists have collected is locked up and we need to get it unlocked so we can tackle those huge problems. Now if I go on like this, you’ll think that all the data comes from huge institutions and has nothing to do with you. But, that’s not true. In fact, data is about our lives. You just — you log on to your social networking site, your favorite one, you say, “This is my friend.” Bing! Relationship. Data. You say, “This photograph, it’s about — it depicts this person. ” Bing! That’s data. Data, data, data. Every time you do things on the social networking site, the social networking site is taking data and using it — re-purposing it — and using it to make other people’s lives more interesting on the site. But, when you go to another linked data site — and let’s say this is one about travel, and you say, “I want to send this photo to all the people in that group,” you can’t get over the walls. The Economist wrote an article about it, and lots of people have blogged about it — tremendous frustration. The way to break down the silos is to get inter-operability between social networking sites. We need to do that with linked data. One last type of data I’ll talk about, maybe it’s the most exciting. Before I came down here, I looked it up on OpenStreetMap The OpenStreetMap’s a map, but it’s also a Wiki. Zoom in and that square thing is a theater — which we’re in right now — The Terrace Theater. It didn’t have a name on it. So I could go into edit mode, I could select the theater, I could add down at the bottom the name, and I could save it back. And now if you go back to the OpenStreetMap. org, and you find this place, you will find that The Terrace Theater has got a name. I did that. Me! I did that to the map. I just did that! I put that up on there. Hey, you know what? If I — that street map is all about everybody doing their bit and it creates an incredible resource because everybody else does theirs. And that is what linked data is all about. It’s about people doing their bit to produce a little bit, and it all connecting. That’s how linked data works. You do your bit. Everybody else does theirs. You may not have lots of data which you have yourself to put on there but you know to demand it. And we’ve practiced that. So, linked data — it’s huge. I’ve only told you a very small number of things There are data in every aspect of our lives, every aspect of work and pleasure, and it’s not just about the number of places where data comes, it’s about connecting it together. And when you connect data together, you get power in a way that doesn’t happen just with the web, with documents. You get this really huge power out of it. So, we’re at the stage now where we have to do this — the people who think it’s a great idea. And all the people — and I think there’s a lot of people at TED who do things because — even though there’s not an immediate return on the investment because it will only really pay off when everybody else has done it — they’ll do it because they’re the sort of person who just does things which would be good if everybody else did them. OK, so it’s called linked data. I want you to make it. I want you to demand it. And I think it’s an idea worth spreading. Thanks. (Applause)

100 comments

  1. You are mistaken the ARPANET was the worlds first internet.

    The World Wide Web is something different entirely.

  2. nice to see that he trying so hard to fix the web – his bastardization of Ted Nelsons idea!

    but it is same as for Bill Gates by Douglas Adams:

    “The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armor to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.”

    same goes for T. B. Lee. He was one who made this mess from global network peddling second-rated tech.!

  3. he is trying to enforce RDF for more that 15 years…

    search on Google e.g. "isko02.pdf"

    and after 15 years Google will be one that will ENFORCE implementations of RDF (by levering his monopoly position in web search).

    nice.

  4. With abundant data, you also have abundant information, with abundant information, you also have abundant education, and with abundant education, you also have abundant learning, and with all those things, the threat of fear over love, falls away. People altruistically sharing everything with each other, is an immortal force, if something goes wrong, it repairs itself and improves automatically; not the case for closed systems & people's egos, which die as soon as they become deprecated.

  5. If you are a developer building a website, you can use semantic and linked data formats, or provide it via an API in a JSON or XML formats. If you are an end-user creating content, the best services to do this automatically for you are Substance.io and Document Cloud which are amazing, and much better than the traditional closed Microsoft Word and Apple Pages software, or the semi-closed semi-open Google Documents web app.

  6. I see now why his boss didn't believe in world wide web in 80s – Tim is so excited he has some problems explaining clearly what he wants. If someone tells me – ok, lets now connect everything to everything, I would not support the idea)

  7. I'm supposed to look at databases for my annotated bibliography. Seven databases to be exact, and I have my research question updated for something that can actually give me results. Now, where's my coffee?

  8. yes yes, put everything about your life on a database and make it available to the world, privacy is so last century

  9. Great idea! There will be many business opportunities using linked data.
    After buiding an open web, and then what will be the next web???

  10. web 5.0 will be telepathic in which you just think of the question and know it instantly or open website by thought, web 6.0 will be embedded to your nervous system, in which you get to experience website or videos in a virtual reality, web 7.0 is probably life creation with matter energy manipulation to acheive any effect etc, web 8.0 true omnipotent powers, able to reshape reality itself etc..

  11. I think Tim haven't explained it as good as it should've been. LD is a great concept, but it needs more examples. E.g., we've heard the talk about interconnected web-sites, databases, but how it actually works, how to use it, how we can combine data from one site/db with another? From what I've heard that Google thingy that converts currency does this through LD, which I bet lots of people would like to do, but how it can be done? Is it available through some kind of API available from some "cloud", or you can do that on your own, with JavaScript?

  12. I've already been hearing a lot about JSON-LD. If used with DBPedia just like Sir Tim said, it would be the ultimate solution. JSON-LD just became a W3C standard for Linked Data.

  13. I think linked data and intelligent algorithms to synthesize the massive quantity of information on the web are great and revolutionary ideas that are actually achievable today. Yet it seems the Internet is content with being a static and "dead" space which requires work by the user to gain information; its more like a cooler of soda than the automated vending machine it could easily be with modern algorithms.

  14. Yes the World Wide Web should be free & so should everything else. Think food, shelter, clothing, etc. It's not because of USA Capitalism, which is "force every person to buy & sell something or starve." So billions starve. Capitalists think "we can't have equal wealth because no one would work & all humans will die" which is the "we need slavery" argument that's always existed. Truth is there should not be any unequal wealth on earth, but USA doesn't think wage slavery is slavery, they really don't. Truth is all people WW should own all things WW, so everything is free AND so all people can work part-time building only 100-story Tower cities connected to maglev Trains, which is the only way to get people to stop doing things that destroy the earth. EX: No one will be tempted by money to poach an endangered elephant, shark, etc, to sell to a rich person, then every person would be able to help stop poaching, stop cutting down rain forests WW, stop making weapons & wars, stop making cars, trucks, buses, tobacco, drugs, ETC, which is headed by the USA. There are many forms of slavery, which should be taught IN & BY the USA WW to end slavery: Prostitution, making weapons, military, all work, buying & selling, having children, marriage, needing food, shelter, clothing, etc. Slavery means "controlled by someone or something," so living is slavery, but we can teach people to all work part-time, rather than having some people work 40-100 hours a week while billions can't ever get any work. USA nor any nation ever really ended slavery, because of ignorance about what slavery really is. Only T&T will save the Earth!

  15. Gerry Spence also says we're all slaves, in "Give Me Liberty." Others are Gerrard Winstanley, Mother Mary Jones, Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, Helen Keller, Upton Sinclair ("The Jungle"), & probably anyone who ever wanted Socialism/Communism. Corporations are slave plantations whose employees are slaves (even college educated, because colleges teach slavery), but corporations enslave every person, even if they don't work for a corporation. See MNC's who can't hire every person so everyone gets an income. All people should own all corporations, obviously, just like Karl Marx said. USA forced every attempt at Socialism & Communism to fail by starting 50+ wars, assassinations/attempts, teaching torture, & many things listed in "Rogue State…" by William Blum. Also "Third World Traveler." When a few hundred or thousand rich & super-rich people own everything & say "If you want MY food you have to BUY it" but billions can't ever get an income to BUY food, etc. When all people own all things, everything will be free, as it should be. Then all people can work part-time. The world needs equal wealth to save the earth.

  16. Even the kids, & grandkids, etc of the rich & super-rich are vulnerable to being kidnapped & forced into prostitution, the biggest growing industry in the world, even in USA, because the kidnappers can see that there's more money in buying & selling girls (& some boys) repeatedly because they don't have to keep buying a new product to sell, they just sell & resell the same girls over & over & over. The rich can also end up losing every penny & live homeless because that's the nature of capitalism. Ferdinand Lundberg said in his 1968 "The Rich & Super-rich" can & do lose everything they have. The cars, trucks & buses kill even the rich & their kids, so another reason they shouldn't want cars & mansions, just T&T. Guns kill about 30,000 people every year, including the rich; total since 2001 is 420,000. Add up all those deaths from just guns & weapons they should be trying hard to eliminate all vehicles & weapons, & start demanding all nations say all people must own all things, & start building only Towers & Trains. No one will be safe anywhere in USA or worldwide (vacations?!) until we in USA do this…..

  17. Frustration as a key to innovation. Raw data now! Not just for transparency but because it is useful to our lives

  18. So Wikipedia with required References….. I had to watch it twice to make sure i understand. but yeah…. Wikipedia with required References…..

  19. Without him there wouldn't be a web -> No Google, no Facebook no Amazon. He brought a new level of communication and economy. Superb genius!

  20. Is this like a news-feed? I got the feeling content providers didn't like them because you didn't have to go to their websites. I have a feed reader and it gives me all their data that is provided and it's like a search engine but customized just to what I want.

  21. the internett is generally very hard to understand for a lot of people but thats not so weird when the people who do understand it uses so goddamn many abbreviations on everything!!!!!! http, html, url, nypd,

    not sure if my comment seem dumb now…

  22. I understand about sql php and another scripting language especially web.
    I agree him about that dbpedia. But, I'm not really agree this guy when he say that we need to use data to connect people. It's kinda primitive doesn't it?
    There's is a cookie, nobodys need to connect a thing with damn database.

  23. If everybody can add data to everything how can we be sure it's even reliable? This is a very romantic idea but I don't know how anything that comes from linked data can be trusted.

  24. Evolution of The Web Each level seems to distance the user from the material and technical contingencies, to bring transparency in the exchanges and to open on new functionalities. And since the function creates the organ, it profoundly changes the whole of society. #webevolution https://bit.ly/2MNMyfG

  25. The I t world wants to hear truth BBC in trouble people's or common man's enamy several attempts timetraverller on ur case anyone Spence please select accent notice all memo dates his boss was sent how many places has it bin found is it a memo or an arch of cov ur in trouble wen media give me a chance u guys blocker me off ur despicable false web claim Dr YEH gif data ideas pathetic wen I'm around try avoiding me Ahmed waqar aka roger

  26. He didn't invent the web. It was invented by Ted Nelson who started project Xanadu, but the project was too ambitious at the time. All the concepts behind it were borrowed by companies like Apple's hypercard and the world wide web.

  27. This could be a great way to circumvent the newly approved European Union policy to tax links. But in practice, for a datum to be linkable to any other one it would need a descriptor. It takes knowledge to make information from data. I'm struggling to see how this can be possible. Perhaps the best tactic for its approximation would be to unleash a robot to do it, naturally open-sourced and customizable. I wonder how it could work. But yeah, give us the raw data! We're treated like lab rats by some of the main social networks, like Facebook. Searches could be much more powerful. Yet the trend is towards the reverse. A search for cannabis this morning on there produced 0 results even though I've mentioned it myself quite a few times. Same goes for Gmail. A semantic web could be a great defence against central control. Thanks, everyone for your previous comments, I'll be sure to check out the links and get up to speed. Be seeing you! <3

  28. Now when people learn what he did see what happens……….a 10 to 20 years later…

    I will surely come again to check this mark my words today-date 17 nov 2018

  29. Ai não gostei ,colocar minha altura,meu pais,meu tipo sanguineo….só com o http liked datas,ainda bem que a internet não evoluiu pra isso.A gente já se expoe tanto assim ia ficar muito Muito escancarado,é melhor ser mais discreto.Fora que se por exemplo o individuo tem alguma infração,ou sei lá atraso de conta não sei fica muito mais fácil de o governo perseguir,isso ai só tiraria a liberdade das pessoas e daria o controle do governo sobre as massas de vigília

  30. sometimes is difficult to rationalize what is proper improper, i feel that what is missing is critical thinking. and the lot needs some input so they achieve critical thinking, otherwise as technology evolves unexpected reactions can take place and reasoning is overcome by emotions. better have a magna carta for the web. …..since is the new medium of communication.

  31. Data is gold and gold has a price :). Raw data is the most precious asset right now and everyone is asking for a price for it.

  32. 15:28 To put a finer point on that power thing, that's the power of efficiency, the power to use less energy to accomplish information processing. So it's about sustainability, it's about being lean, and lean is about evolution… For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it. In this light it could be said that impeding access to data is impeding evolution.

  33. EVERYBODY, this "next web" project exists now. It is called InterPlanetary FileSystem, aka IPFS. It promises a less-centralized, censorship-free, always-encrypted internet, free for all.

  34. BEST DEFENSE FOR WIKI LEAKS ASSANGE/ 👽 MAGNA CARTA FOR THE WEB* IT all fit's, smoothie clear, real, GOOGLE MICROSOFT AND WEB RIFTS / I phones eye phones/ Follow natures call magna carta for the WEB / liberty for ASSANGE/ 🤔👩‍🦰👨👩👧😋😋😊

  35. …everyone wants to make a little difference…and with Tim B-L it started so small, as a side-project. It seems you should never underestimate the potential of small projects born from your own ideas/frustration.

  36. magna carta for the web/ sharing/ is the way // even among browser & computers between themselves /also for the Assange problem, wiki leaks is DATA/

  37. rich people: i own three yachts and 4 mansions

    tim burners-lee: i invented the world wide web

    rich people: you win

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