Celebrating a culture of openness

Happy anniversary

It is 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee, while working at CERN, released his proposal for a new information-management system. Two years and a lot of coding later, this vision of universal connectivity had become the World Wide Web. For those born too late to have enjoyed those first double-click hyperlinks, CERN has teamed up with developers to recreate the experience for you by emulating the NeXT browser on which the software was written (https://worldwideweb.cern.ch). This is part of a series of 30th anniversary celebrations worldwide taking place in March in partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium and the World Wide Web (WWW) Foundation.

Openness is the soul of the web, and CERN’s 1993 agreement to place the software in the public domain shapes the web’s character to this day (CERN’s ultimate act of openness). It is part of a culture of sharing and collaboration that was set out in the CERN Convention 40 years earlier, and which is deeply engrained in the software and particle-physics worlds. The articles in the latest issue of CERN Courier – from open-source software (Inspired by software), to open-access publishing (A turning point for open-access publishing), open data (Preserving the legacy of particle physics) and entirely open analysis procedures (Open science: A vision for collaborative, reproducible and reusable research) – show how far ahead our field is in the growing open-science movement.

Beyond science, the WWW Foundation, established by Berners-Lee a decade ago, advocates an “open web” as a means to build a just and thriving society. In November 2018 the foundation published a report that reflected on what the web has allowed humanity to accomplish over the past 30 years and outlined the threats that it now faces. The report notes that more than half of the world’s population is still offline, with online take-up slowing dramatically, continuing: “The distributed power of the web has shifted to lay in the hands of just a few, online abuse is on the rise, and the content we see is increasingly susceptible to manipulation.” This issue’s Viewpoint, arguing for a “humanised internet”, suggests that we have so far tapped only a fraction of the web’s potential for good.

• For more coverage on the web at 30, see Physics Worlds collectionScience in a digital world.