“Weaving the Web” by Tim Berners-Lee
Weaving the Web is a book written by Tim Berners-Lee in 1999 to address the questions that many people have regarding the World Wide Web. This book is more descriptive than technical; the author presents the story of the Web creation and shares his suggestions and expectations with the readers. Though the book highlights numerous aspects of the World Wide Web and pays attention even to certain technical characteristics, it does have a central theme which the author maintains throughout fourteen chapters. This theme is as follows: the World Wide Web was not created for entertainment or mere sharing of information; it is a space that is not controlled by a definite authority and that allows a wide range of people to collaborate and create together the Web of Trust in which they can express their individual freedoms without any restrictions. Berners-Lee’s Weaving the Web abounds with different suggestions and arguments regarding the Web functions and development; some of them can be agreed upon, while the others deserve contestation and even certain criticism.
One of Berners-Lee’s arguments that I support is that a system should not be based on the redundancy of information. For instance, the author states that “storing the same information in two places… is almost always asking for trouble: the files would inevitably get out of step” (Berners-Lee 11). Unlike the real world, where the redundant information “provides a vehicle for problem generation and knowledge creation” (Smith 29), redundancy in the Web makes the systems based on it more fragile and, exactly as Berners-Lee has put it, “asking for trouble” (11). Thus, redundancy may be useful only for maintaining data integrity (creating backups, for instance).
Another argument that I cannot disagree with is the one concerning the idea that the Web should not be unconstrained. Berners-Lee makes this argument when talking about the necessity to use HTTP only. He states that “If the Web were to be universal, it should be as unconstraining as possible” (Berners-Lee 39). The matter is that these days a number of W3C specifications are still created according to this principle (World Wide Web Consortium Issues) because they are, as a rule, monolithic in nature and are rarely compatible with modern technologies, let alone those that will be developed in future. This is why I agree with Berners-Lee adhering to the principle of minimal constraint.
The final argument I absolutely agree with was made by Berners-Lee about computer development. Complaining about the slow performance of his computer, Berners-Lee states “When I want to interact with a computer, I have to wait several minutes after turning it on before it is ready to converse… These machines are supposed to be there for us, not the other way around” (158). This argument was applicable back then when computer technologies were underdeveloped; now, with their development being too rapid and even excessive, the argument is still relevant. Computers are getting smarter than people; they start ruling the world with people being unable to cope with them sometimes (Robertson-Dunn para. 1). Computers are just machines, and it should be agreed that they should serve people, rather than vice versa.
There are, however, several arguments and suggestions that I do not agree with; for instance, the argument that the author makes about gopher and WAIS. Berners-Lee states: “I defined two new URI prefixes that could appear before the double slash — “gopher:” and “wais:”… Both systems took off much more quickly than the Web and I was quite concerned at the time that they would suffocate it” 40). The author’s predictions turned out to be not true. These prefixes were of completely no competition to HTTP, especially WAIS that came out of usage rather soon (Anderson para. 5). Though gopher turned out to be more compatible and survived till the new millennium, it was never able to suffocate the Web.
There is also another argument made by Berners-Lee that I do not agree with. In the chapter “Web of People,” the author argues that “The web is more a social creation than a technical one” (Berners-Lee 123). Perhaps, for the time when the Web was created, this argument could be agreed with. At present, however, more complex Web designs continue emerging, and now “many Web sites are more complex than they need to be” (Proctor and Vu 278). Though this does not mean that the primary function of the Web (ensuring collaboration between people) has changed, the Web became a technical toy to some extent because this is how many people make money – designing complex websites with animation, graphics, audio, video, etc.
And lastly, the argument regarding the human readability of HTML is also not easy for me to agree with. For example, Berners-Lee states that the readability of HTML was quite unexpected for him: “To my surprise, people quickly became familiar with the tags and started writing their own HTML documents directly” (42). Probably, by “people” the author meant programmers, or at least those who had deep knowledge in programming. Understanding content source is still hard for many people, let alone the creation of their own HTML documents.
Therefore, not all the arguments that Berners-Lee presents in his book can be agreed with. The arguments that are easy to agree with concern the redundancy of information, the principle of minimal constraint, and computer development, while those that cause disagreement relate to the compatibility of such prefixes as gopher and WAIS, technical characteristics of the Web, and human readability of HTML.
Anderson, Nate. “The Web May Have Won, but Gopher Tunnels on.” Laws and Disorder. ArsTechnica, 2010. Web.
Berners-Lee, Tim. Weaving the Web. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.
Proctor, Robert W., and Vu, Kim-Phuong L. Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.
Robertson-Dunn, Bernard. “Computers Will Rule the World.” Mailman, 1999. Web.
Smith, David E. Knowledge, Groupware, and the Internet. Woburn, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000.
W3C. “World Wide Web Consortium Issues: XHTML Basic as a W3C Recommendation.” W3C, 2000. Web. 2