On the open internet and the free web

David Foster on our responsibility as individuals to preserve an open internet and a free web for the benefit of humankind


David Foster, deputy head of CERN's IT department and early web contributor, on our responsibility as individuals to preserve an open internet and a free web for the benefit of humankind.


The internet created the platform and opportunity for people to communicate, to collaborate and to share at unprecedented scale and speed.

The creation of the World Wide Web opened up these possibilities to the world, enabling individuals to participate and play their  own creative role in the sharing of all human achievements.

This has enabled interactions between all sorts of people – from all sorts of domains, including business, government and scientific communities – for all manner of activities like never before in human history. The web has evolved from simple information sharing to transacting business through socialising and more recently collaborative problem solving in citizen cyber science. In these ways it harnesses the capabilities of humanity to do what we do best; share, learn, collaborate and innovate.

However, with this capability comes considerable responsibility. Basic human rights – including the right to freedom of expression and the protection of privacy – all need to be balanced and preserved in order that this incredible resource can be a safe and exciting place for creativity for people of all ages and interests.

The accessibility and openness of the internet are crucial to enabling new ideas to flourish and compete with the long-standing traditions and to ensure that the evolution of the web continues to proceed at a pace limited only by our ideas.

This responsibility rests with all of us – whether politicians, lawmakers, scientists or citizens – to ensure that the incredible progress we have made in the last 25 years, starting with the work of a few, and now capturing the innovations of many, can continue in an open, trusted, safe, free and fair way.