He's on speed

Gregory Alan Bolcer (gbolcer@endTECH.com)
Sat, 27 Nov 1999 14:22:29 -0800

I think he means certified, not licensed. So, licensing users on the Web may
prevent tracing of some child pornography and other offensive site, but a global
certification scheme is very offensive. Why should two people, devices, agents,
whatever that trust each other have to involve anyone else in their transaction?
Why should anyone else be involved in the interactions between two
consenting Internet agents?



Web Co-Inventor Backs Licensing
3:02 a.m. ET (814 GMT) November 27, 1999

GENEVA The co-inventor of the World Wide Web says all Internet users
should be licensed so surfers on the information highway are as accountable as
drivers on the road.

Robert Cailliau, who designed the Web with Briton Tim Berners-Lee in late
1990, says regulation of the Internet would also help trace illegal child
pornography and racist sites.

But in an interview with Reuters Television, the Belgian software scientist was
adamant that the system must remain open and neutral free of heavy-handed
rules governing content.

Cailliau also said he expected a "micropayment system'' to be agreed eventually
by the international industry consortium, known as W3C, which sets standards
for the Web.

This would give Web users the option of paying a small fee in return for
downloading advertising-free pages quickly from an uncluttered cyberspace,
according to the 52-year-old expert.

Cailliau proposes licensing all Internet users to make them aware of their "duties
as well as their rights,'' comparing it to a driver needing a license before hitting the

"The Net is another world, potentially a dangerous place. You can harm people
and you can get harmed, just like on the road,'' he said. "If you go through an
education process before getting an account then you're better prepared to go out

He added: "We all accept that a car has number plates and a driver is registered
somewhere...Why can't we apply these same principles to the Internet?''


Asked how offensive sites and "spam-mail'' invading cyberspace should be dealt
with, he replied:

"The Internet and the Web are completely outside geographical state boundaries.
This is not dissimilar to air. If you make pollution in one place it travels across the

"For very similar reasons I think we need some regulation of Net behavior which
is internationally agreed, globally agreed.''

But the system is open, neutral and non-proprietary, and must remain so,
according to Cailliau. "One has to be extremely careful what it is that one
regulates. We should not regulate the content but the behavior of people.

"We don't tell the servers what they are allowed or not allowed to show. We just
register them,'' he added. "If they put child pornography on there, we can at least
get at them.''

Cailliau spoke in his tiny office at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics,
known by its French acronym CERN. More than 7,000 physicists and staff from
83 countries work at the sprawling site, the world's largest research facility.

It was at the Geneva complex straddling the Swiss-French border that he was
part of a small visionary team who invented a system allowing documents to be
transferred across the Internet.

Cailliau, currently head of Web communications at CERN, reminisced about the
breakthrough nearly a decade ago a time when the Internet was used mainly at
academic institutes.

"In our own international environment at CERN where we have users all over the
world, we needed a system where we could communicate documents
automatically so that people in any time zone could look at things here without
needing to contact the person and they could do it by just clicking around,'' he


"What was really the click that made it all go was this idea of giving a single
namespace, designing a single way of naming a document wherever it was,'' he

Cailliau hopes the World Wide Web Consortium, directed by Berners-Lee, will
agree on a micropayment system to reduce the need for advertising. But technical
problems must be overcome.

The consortium is run jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control
(INRIA, based near Versailles) and Keio University in Japan. Its 370 members
include such industry giants as Apple, IBM, Netscape, Sony, Xerox and

A working group is studying the idea of an optional fee, according to Cailliau.
"The consortium is very close now to making a micropayments recommendation.
There is a proposal there, which is very interesting because if we can get it to
work, that will change the quality of the Web completely.''

"We've had micropayments in the French Minitel system for 15 years and it is
shown to work extremely well,'' he added.

As for the Web of the future, he said: "The obvious things are more speed, more
high-quality information, getting micropayments to really work and getting the
regulation going internationally as well.

"But what is after that is unclear. One must not forget that according to some
estimates we've got something like three percent of what one could put on the
Web and do with it on it right now. So there's still a lot of work to be done,'' he

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Greg Bolcer
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