Contract For the Web Timeline

What will you commit to?

In November of 2018, I wrote in my newsletter about the Contract For the Web, an initiative started by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Foundation. This project is intended to “bring governments, companies and citizens together around a shared set of commitments to build a better web.”

With our collective online experience being degraded every day, there is precious little opportunity for ordinary people to speak up for a World Wide Web that meets their needs. This is an opportunity that I hope you’ll take, to consider what the web could be and make your thoughts known.

What started as a high level set of principals has been expanded into a draft document with specific goals for governments, companies and citizens. This is the opening statement and table of contents:

The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available. Everyone has a role to play to ensure the web serves humanity. By committing to this Contract, governments, companies and citizens around the world can help protect the open web as a public good and a basic right for everyone.

Governments will
Principle 1 – Ensure everyone can connect to the internet
Principle 2 – Keep all of the internet available, all of the time
Principle 3 – Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights

Companies will
Principle 4 – Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone
Principle 5 – Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust
Principle 6 – Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst

Citizens will
Principle 7 – Be creators and collaborators on the web
Principle 8 – Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
Principle 9 – Fight for the web

In a blog post about how they arrived at this draft and next steps for the project, the Contract For the Web writes:

To arrive at this point, five working groups have spent months building out the contract’s nine founding principles into clauses that will drive progress across several focus areas. A core group, responsible for stewarding the contract, consolidated their work to produce this first draft.

For now, the focus is on continuing to negotiate these clauses and agreeing the final text. When published later this year, we will once again ask organisations to pledge their support for the Contract for the Web.

The negotiations to get to a final document may be challenging. Working towards meaningful change will always be uncomfortable and disagreements between diverse groups with different interests are expected, even inevitable. The debate taking place speaks to the fact that this project is being taken seriously.

Whether you remember the early days of the web as I do, or are a relative newcomer, please take a few minutes to read the draft document and fill out the survey. It may be an idealistic exercise but I believe that it’s one that we would regret not trying.

Everyone who uses the internet is affected by these principles. So please consider sharing this post with a friend.

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