Web Principles
AuthorJohn Valentine
Minor edits2023-10-25
Categoriesweb, www, Internet, SocialMedia, Tim Berners-Lee, security, advertising, politics, blog.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote a piece in the New York Times about the shape of the World Wide Web of the future. [1]

Below is my own set of principles, which covers a more user-centric experience, that I've had drafted for a while, and I've been looking for an opportunity or context for posting it. I think now is a good time.

1. Create opportunities rather than obstacles

Advertising, consent, and choices: should not inconvenience the user.

  • Do not obscure the content that the user is looking for, nor distract the user while consuming the content.
  • Operate opt-in policies for features that would inconvenience the user, rather than forcing the user to make decisions in a blocking process.
  • Functionality should be for the user, rather than to serve revenue generation for the host. This means designing interfaces to simply do what the user wants, and not packaging a user benefit along with privacy compromises for the user.
  • Likewise, alternative options, equally valid but resulting in a less-desirable outcome for the provider, should not be obscured, e.g. "Yes" and "No" responses to an offer should be of nearly equivalent status in presentation.

Technology should enable, rather than disable. Do not create (exclusive) markets or other artificial barriers that charge for information that should be free. Likewise, do not change popular culture to believe that barriers are normal.

2. Protect systems as transparently as possible

Unfortunately, security must be a consideration, to protect our systems from those who work against them. Without security, and without security threats, life would be much more efficient and accessible. Given that secure-by-design is a requirement, our systems should be usable with a minimum of inconvenience, including lowering barriers to entry.

  • Use information responsibly.
  • Protect these principles, in politics, governance, and communication of technology.

3. Allow the individual to innovate and present

Do not rely on 'platforms' as the only means of expression and content delivery. Allow smaller interests to host publish and content without external controls. This has the added complication of protecting some people from 'inappropriate content' while preserving informed choice.

Do not control the infrastructure in a way that prioritises some users over others, or some content over others, or prioritises traffic by its revenue-generation opportunity.

4. Keep the content accessible, to allow more users to access the web

Keep content compact (allowing low bandwidth access),

Serve relevant content without overhead or a requirement to use advanced hardware (allowing low-end hardware),

Present information clearly, with metadata that allows alternative means of consuming content (allowing people to use alternative readers).

Avoid excessive animations that hide other problems, or exist only to create the impression of complexity. Despite more power-efficient technologies, animations consume energy that needn't be spent.

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