Celebrating the World Wide Web
Our Deputy Director Strategy marks World Wide Web Day on 1 August by celebrating the advantages the Web has brought and explaining how GCHQ helps to protect against those who use it as a threat.
Since Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 we have lived through the most significant change in the way we communicate since the invention of the printing press. Today, in 2016, billions of people around the globe use the Web – and the myriad of applications and services that use it – in virtually every facet of their lives, but most particularly in the way they connect with each other. It’s this breathtaking acceleration of humanity’s ability to talk to itself about itself which really captures the magic of the Web.
The everyday miracle of being able to search a global resource of knowledge, insight, opinion and analysis from a device small enough to fit in your pocket. The ability for everyone to contribute to that ever-growing repository of what the human species has discovered. But more than anything else, it’s the explosion of connectedness between people that the Web enables which makes it truly transformative. Enabling everyone to engage in a global conversation is the ultimate expression of freedom of thought, and an incredibly powerful realisation of the core democratic values that we in the UK hold so dear, and which GCHQ exists to protect.
As in all areas of human affairs, there is a dark side to the Web. Some use it to cause harm, to spread poisonous ideology, or to suppress free thought. The great strengths of the Web make it a powerful weapon in the hands of those who would seek to undermine freedom or promote intolerance. GCHQ plays a part in countering these threats, and our people work every day fighting terrorism, serious crime, and cyber attacks, to defend our way of life – a way of life that is greatly enhanced and enriched by everyone’s ability to interact and communicate freely with each other.
There is an ongoing debate about online privacy and security, one which our Director comprehensively discussed in his speech earlier this year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As he said: "The solutions lie with those who run the Internet: that wonderful collaboration of industry, academia, civil society, governments and, above all, the public."
No-one can predict what the next 27 years will bring as web technology continues to change our lives. Let’s hope that the journey Sir Tim started continues to support the world in becoming an ever more connected, understanding, and innovative place. Our shared future surely depends on our ability to keep talking to one another, and for that, the World Wide Web has been revolutionary.
Ian, Deputy Director Strategy, GCHQ