Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tim Berners-Lee receives Millenium Technology Prize

The Finnish Technology Award Foundation awarded the Millenium Technology Prize to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World-Wide Web, today. The award carries a cash prize of 1 million euros (about $1.2 million dollars, nearly as much as the Nobel Prize). This is great because he had never made a cent off his incredible idea, refusing to patent it in order to keep the web free. We should be incredibly grateful; that gesture has made the Internet what it is today. Before the advent of the web, hypertext systems weren't interoperable. If he had patented the idea, he would have become rich, but we would probably have had several incompatible 'webs' today.

The International Herald Tribune has a good article on the award, with quotes from Berners-Lee. My favourite:
The problem now is someone can write something out of their own creativity, and a lawyer can look over their shoulder later and say, 'Actually, I'm sorry, but lines 35 to 42 we own, even though you wrote it.' What's at stake here is the whole spirit in which software has been developed to date. If you can imagine a computer doing it, then you can write a computer program to do it. That spirit has been behind so many wonderful developments. And when you connect that to the spirit of the Internet, the spirit of openness and sharing, it's terribly stifling to creativity. It's stifling to the academic side of doing research and thinking up new ideas, it's stifling to the new industry and the new enterprises that come out of that.

Hurray for freedom of thought, speech, good ideas, and software!

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