Web Maestro Tim Berners-Lee Wins Prestigious Tech Award

Apr 04, 2017

Tim Berners-Lee, long known for development of World Wide Web, which he came up with as a way for scientists to share information on the Internet, has been awarded the prestigious Turing Award by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).

The Turing Award, often called the "Nobel Prize" for computing, is named after Alan Turing, the British computer scientist and war hero. Turing led the British intelligence team which cracked the Nazi code during World War II. Turing was the subject of the 2014 film The Imitation Game.

The blue hypertext links used in this story and elsewhere that refer readers to related content are a direct outgrowth of Berners-Lee's work.

Berners-Lee is now a principal investigator at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and he remains the director of the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, an organization that sets technical standards for web development.

His work on the World Wide Web—the "www" at the start of Internet addresses—commenced in 1989 when he was at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where researchers spread across the globe and using different computers and tools needed to share information. For his work, he was dubbed a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004, making him Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Berners-Lee envisioned the Web as a free and open place. But Berners-Lee has also become alarmed by abuses of that platform. In an essay he wrote for this year's World Economic Forum, Berners-Lee decried the loss of personal data privacy, the ease with which misinformation can spread, and the lack of transparency over who pays for political online advertising. WBUR has more on why Berners-Lee remains somewhat optimistic about the web, despite the aforementioned problems.

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He has also expressed concerns that tech corporations—like Google, Facebook (fb), and Amazon (amzn)—have too much power over the Internet and too much access to personal information. As noted in a recent Wired interview, Berners-Lee has said he would like to rebalance that equation and help people take back control of their data. Towards that end, he's helping lead CSAIL's Decentralized Information Group.

Former Turing Award winners include database guru Michael Stonebraker and Internet pioneer Vint Cerf. Last year's honorees were cryptographers Whitfield Diffie and Martin Helman.

The Turing Award is a huge honor, but it also carries an important material benefit: A $1 million prize, funded by Google.

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