Today campaigners asserted that Sir Tim Berners Lee’s global standards organization for internet is no more fit for purpose.

The Movement for an Open Web alliance (MOW), claimed that W3C, also known as the World Wide Web Consortium was being ‘hijacked and manipulated by Big Tech’, including Google.

MOW, a consortium of publishers, tech companies, and advertisers, has asked authorities to examine whether W3C’s ‘processes & procedures favor Big Tech’ and are compliant with antitrust laws in Europe, the US and the UK.

W3C was created in 1994 by Sir Tim the computer scientist, who continues to serve as a director. The W3C is an impartial and independent organization that agrees on web standards.

MOW is now suing the British Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission, as well the US Department of Justice for their concerns about the W3C’s workings.

British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, pictured in Milan in 2019, set up global internet standards organisation the World Wide Web Consortium, known as W3C, in October 1994

British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, pictured in Milan in 2019, set up global internet standards organisation the World Wide Web Consortium, known as W3C, in October 1994

Sir Tim is pictured in his office in June 1998 in front of the W3C logo on two computer monitors

Sir Tim, pictured at his office on June 1998 with the W3C logo and two computers monitors

MOW claims today that W3C is under the influence of Google. Google currently has 106 representative supporting the body while digital businesses typically only have one.

CMA, Information Commissioner’s Office were also attacked by the alliance for their naive assumption that the W3C is truly impartial and independent.

What is the story of Sir Tim Berners Lee?

British computer scientist Sir Timothy Berners Lee was born in June 1955. He received his physics degree at Queen’s College Oxford.

He graduated in 1976 and began his career as an engineer within the microprocessor and telecommunications industries.

He was working at CERN as an independent contractor in 1980 when he first proposed the idea of a global system that used hypertext to exchange information among researchers.

He then built Enquire, a prototype of the World Wide Web.

His landmark 1989 paper, Information Management: A Proposal, was published by Sir Tim. He also created the web browser and first WWW server.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was founded by him in 1994. It is an international group that agrees on web standards. He continues to be an influential figure there.

Sir Tim advocates open data and freedom of the internet. He co-founded UK’s Open Data Institute in 2012.

He was also the first to be awarded the Finland’s Millennium Technology Prize.

In addition to the Charles Stark Draper Prize, and the Mikhail Gorbachev prize for ‘The man who changed the world’, he was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of the twentieth century.

MOW claimed it made ‘formal and detailed submissions’ (to the CMA and DoJ) to the EC, in which it was blaming W3C for bias and favoring tech giants in its decision-making, procedures, and compliance with antitrust laws.

It is a campaign against Big Tech’s hold over the web. The organization also stated that they were disappointed last week that both the CMA and ICO, in separate papers, cited W3C to be the appropriate place for applying universal standards.

MOW stated that Google’s 106 workers assist W3C with its work while other companies are limited to one.

In addition, it noted that the US House of Representatives had released an antitrust study that found Google representatives outnumbered other members of Congress at 106.

The US reported also quoted an American participant as saying that W3C “gives the impression that members work together to improve the website platform. But in fact, Google’s dominant position and rapid pace of adding new features reduces them frequently to discussing and codifying Google’s features and rubber stamping decisions Google already made’.

According to a MOW spokesperson, “In theory the W3C allows tech companies to work together to assess the effects of software or technology changes. They also agree on the steps to take to guarantee unlimited access to all and fair competition.

“But, this is not the case when Google’s new Privacy Sandbox” is concerned.

Google was planning to remove third-party cookies and replace them with a new “Privacy Sandbox”.

This means that users won’t be tracked by advertisers using cookies like traditional cookies. Instead, they will be divided into groups.

MOW claims that this will limit open internet competition because it reduces the information other tech companies, publishing and advertising firms have on their users.

MOW stated that it’s requesting authorities to examine whether W3C’s processes and procedures favor Big Tech or are in compliance with antitrust laws.

The MOW added that if they were not compatible MOW will seek to apply suitable solutions.

W3C, an international community where web standards are agreed upon, was founded in 1994

W3C was established in 1994. It is an international organization that agrees on web standards.

The Movement for an Open Web  alliance alleged that W3C, had been 'hijacked by Big Tech, in particular Google'. The tech giant's offices in Mountain View, California, are pictured above

The Movement for an Open Web  alliance alleged that W3C, had been ‘hijacked by Big Tech, in particular Google’. These are images of the Mountain View offices of Google, the tech giant, as seen above

Timothy Cowen, MOW’s legal advisor and head of antitrust at Preiskel & Co, said: ‘The W3C has been captured by Big Tech, even its own antitrust guidelines have not been enforced when they should have been.’

MOW accused W3C, too, of using ‘weak process which allows major players to stack it in their favor.

It added: ‘There are precedents for intervention by the authorities when such issues arise – for instance the mobile phone standards association, GSMA, was found to be similarly biased towards the major operators, when it was investigated by the DoJ in 2019.’

MailOnline has reached out to Google and W3C for clarification. 

Timeline of how Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web

The power and impact of the Web was not something that Tim Berners-Lee (an Oxford University graduate) anticipated when he submitted his original proposal for an information management program to CERN colleagues more than thirty years ago. HHere’s a brief history of the creation and development of the Web in the beginning.

March 1989 Information Management: Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal was circulated to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) for comment.

October 1990 Sir Tim begins work on the hypertext graphical user interaction (GUI), browser and editor with a NeXT Cube computer. He also uses NeXTStep, a NeXTStep environment program. The project’s name is chosen by him as “WorldWideWeb”.

August 1991 All files related to the project can be found on the internet.

Mai 1992 Pei Wei (student computer programer and member of eXperimental Computer Facility computer club at University of California, Berkeley) submits his Viola’ browser in the project’s Xtest version.

February 1993 National Centre for Supercomputing Applications, NCSA, releases the initial alpha version Marc Andreessen’s Mosaic for X> browser. This browser would eventually be popularised on the Web and later ported over to Microsoft Windows. Microsoft then licenses it to make its Internet Explorer browser.

April 1993 CERN has declared that WWW technology will be available to anyone without any fees.

Mai 1994 First International WWW Conference held at CERN, Geneva.

October 1994 World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that agrees on web standards, was founded.