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Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web

The Creator of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee.

The creator of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. The World Wide Web has been compared to Bell's telephone and Marconi's radio in it's revolutionary impact on the world. Berners-Lee has long maintained that the Web is for the common good, despite efforts by others to make it otherwise. His new book is "Weaving the Web The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor." Berners-Lee is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium which coordinates Web development. (Harpers)


Other segments from the episode on September 16, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 16, 1999: Interview with Tim Berners-Lee; Review of the Jeb Bishop Trio's album "Jeb Bishop Trio"; Review of the television show "Action."


Date: SEPTEMBER 16, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091601np.217
Head: Interview with World Wide Web Creator Tim Berners-Lee
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.

The World Wide Web is changing how we find information, shop, invest, and spend our leisure time. This extraordinary new system was invented by one man, Tim Berners-Lee. On today's FRESH AIR, he talks about creating the Web and his mission to keep it deecentralized with free access to users.

He directs the World Wide Web Consortium, which agrees on Web protocols. He has a new book called "Weaving the Web."

Also, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the new CD by the Jeb Bishop Trio, a trio with an unusual mix of instruments, and TV critic David Bianculli previews "Action," the controversial new TV show about Hollywood that premieres on Fox tonight.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The World Wide Web is changing the way we find information, shop, invest and entertain ourselves. Among the many amazing things about the Web is that it was invented by one person, my guest, Tim Berners-Lee. He proposed the idea of the Web in 1989 while working as a software engineer at Cern (ph), the European particle physics lab on the French-Swiss border. He made the Web available on the Internet in 1991. Since 1994, he's directed the World Wide Web Consortium, a forum where companies and organizations discuss and agree on new common Web protocols.

Berners-Lee was born in 1955 in London, where he was among the first kids to enter the computer age. His parents worked on the first commercially sold computer, the Ferante (ph) Mark 1. Berners-Lee has written a new book called "Weaving the Web." I asked him what he envisioned when he invented the Web and how that compares to what the Web is today.


TIM BERNERS-LEE, WORLD WIDE WEB CREATOR: The Web really is an abstract idea of a universal space for all information. And so what it becomes is really a question of what people put into it. And what I am trying to do from the technology point of view is to keep it universal, to stop it as a technology trying to influence what you can do with it and what you can't.

The Web is a medium for people working together, particularly people who are in different parts of the world, and now it's used for all kinds of stuff. To me, that's very, very important that it can be used for all kinds of stuff, but I see what's in it as a reflection of society, rather than of the Web itself as a technology.

GROSS: So you created the technology and have no interest in controlling the content, per se.

BERNERS-LEE: Well, that's fundamental to the idea of the Web is that it should be some -- a place where everybody can publish things, anybody can write. There is no central control. The decentralization of it is really important.

GROSS: When you created the Web, you were working at Cern, the European particle physics lab located near Geneva. What were the problems you were personally trying to solve by creating the Web?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, one of the frustrations in working was that, in fact, although there was a very small amount of information which was available easily across networks, there was a huge amount of information which potentially could be.

For example, you take the minutes of a meeting. They're typed into a Macintosh somewhere and printed off, and a copy sent to each person who attended the meeting. Then unless you happen to have the copy on some dusty shelf, then they're effectively lost, even though the difficult part of actually putting the information into a computer has been done and that computer is probably connected to a network.

About the time when I was thinking about the Web, networks were starting to be connected into one great, big Internet. So the -- in a way, all the difficult pieces had been done. All we needed to do was to suddenly -- was to make some way of actually getting at that piece of information from any computer anywhere in the world and -- which was relatively simple. And then, suddenly, working together in this high-tech but very distributed sort of business would be very much easier.

GROSS: Well, I think there were at least two incredible things that the Web did. One was that, yes, it interconnected everyone, but it also created a classification system through interconnecting information that makes it possible, you know, to link one page to another, one site to another. How did you come up with that idea of this interlinking classification system?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, of course, if you think about it, links -- in the form of references, in the form of a link, for example, from the -- a note in a book to a footnote or to a bibliography, to another book -- they've existed in literature for a long, long time. In a way, it's the same concept being turned into just something instant and electronic.

But if you take it more generally, the idea of information as connections is pretty general. Just think of -- what do things mean? You generally think of things being defined by the meanings of the words which you use to express something, and words as defined in a dictionary.

Now, what happens when you go to a dictionary? You look up the definition, and the definition is just a list of other words. It's a list of links to different places in the dictionary. And you can follow -- you can play the dictionary game, you know, looking up all the words you find in the dictionary, recursively, again and again, and it's quite fun.

But you never find a fundamental -- you're never tied down to some physical object. Everything -- all the meaning, in fact, is not in the particular letters. It's not in the particular words. It's in the way they're connected. So that was the philosophy, if you like, the idea that the connections are really, really important. So sort of links in text are -- make text very, very much more valuable.

GROSS: You write in your book that you thought the interconnectedness of the Web was better than hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves. What's the difference between what you would describe as a hierarchical classification system and the interlinking classification system on the Web?

BERNERS-LEE: The hierarchy is a tree, if you like. It has a root or a trunk, depending on which way up you think of it. And so when you classify things, then everybody has to agree that there should be a single root. And that leads to a system which is very organized, that, for example, everybody who uses the Dewey decimal system has to go along with Dewey's original decision about how to break things down into subjects.

And it's great if everybody can agree, but it has problems for really representing society because, in fact, in society people classify things in all sorts of ways. And if you force all information to be put into some tree, you're effectively constraining the way people represent things. You're forcing them when they express themselves to decide whether they're talking about physics or chemistry. Are you talking about literature or about history? And you've got to put it in one of these boxes.

And in fact, life isn't like that. For the Web to be able to describe life, you've got to be able to create -- anybody must be able to create their own tree, and regard themselves or their own concepts as, if you like, the root of their own personal tree.

GROSS: You know, in describing your original idea for the Web, you use the example of if somebody takes notes on a meeting that several people attended, they disseminate the notes in hard copy, and even though it's based on a computer, other people won't have access to that computer, so basically, once you throw away your notes, you've lost access to it, so why not have a way of interconnecting to the computer that the notes are on.

This is a very kind of small community that you're talking about, sharing notes from a meeting. When you started the Web, did you envision it as a World Wide System in which people from around the globe would be sharing information?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, yes, because I was working at a high-energy physics lab. And one of the things about high-energy physics is that it -- the experiments are huge. The experimental apparatus are these sort of house-sized pieces of electronics buried deep in the ground, so you can't make very many of those, which means that people have to collaborate from all over the world on an experiment at Cern.

So necessarily, all the high-energy physicists in the world are networked, and they always talk to each other, and they're typically designing things in labs and universities and then hoping that when they fly them into Cern, that they'll all fit together and work. So it was already very much of a global atmosphere, and people working on the projects -- little projects I'd had were still, even if I had four people collaborating part-time, they'd be in different labs across the world. So it was global from the beginning.

Remember, you talk about the minutes of a meeting as though it's a small thing, but when you look at the interconnections, it can turn out to be very important. That meeting may, in fact, have made a decision to go one way or another in the design of a huge experiment, of a bridge. That was the meeting where we decided to make it a cantilever rather than a suspension.

Now, years later, when looking at the design of the next version of the next bridge or another bridge, then you might -- somebody might be going back over the plans and thinking "Why did they do that?" And to be able to follow a link back to that meeting and see the reasoning that was -- they went through at the time and see whether, in fact, it was flawed -- and ideally, if the minutes of the meeting are hypertext, as for example they are in the World Wide Web Consortium, where we use hypertext all the time, the minutes of the meeting are full of links to the documents people have mentioned as backing up their case.

So that really, you could ideally follow back through the path of reasoning and find out what happened. You don't lose the history of the decision-making process, and I think that's really interesting.

GROSS: My guest is Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, and he has a new book about that called "Weaving the Web."

Once you came up with the idea for the Web, you had to find a common language that would work for all computers. And this was in a period, you know, late '80s, early '90s, when most people weren't really on the Internet. And I think the languages then were probably more complicated. Can you share some of your early concepts for -- in layman's terms, for a language that could interconnect everybody?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, I think by contrast with -- 1989, I was desperately trying to explain to people what a world of global hypertext could look like, and it was difficult. But now I think what's probably more relevant is to explain what it was like before the Web, because I must emphasize, you know, I did not invent the Internet. That was a bunch of people around 15 years beforehand.

So I was really in a very good position. The Internet had been invented in American labs, and it had started to spread across the world, and there had been decisions to start using it at Cern. So the Internet existed, and electronic mail existed. But there wasn't the Web. You couldn't go and click on links. You could get information from another system, but typically, it involved putting together all kinds of rather difficult-to-understand pieces of software, which you had to -- you had to know.

So typically, you would log onto a computer and talk to it in a command language, so you'd have to know commands you could type into the computer, and then it would reply in some sort of language. And some of those commands would allow you to connect to another computer. Now, when you connected to another computer -- for example, a library system -- that computer would then talk to you in the language of their library system.

So I looked at some of the ways that -- the typical ways you could go out to, for example, archives called file transfer protocol archives, which were the way people on the Internet generally kept files available for other people's use.

And it turned out that the sort of recipe that you tell somebody for how to -- "Well, you need to connect to this computer using this program, and then you should go to this directory and get this file, switch to this mode and transfer it back, and then do the following with it" -- that the pieces that -- that recipe was very often the same, and the pieces that changed were the name of the computer and the name of the directory you had to go to, maybe, and the name of the file.

And so you could, in fact, just shrink those two -- the three pieces of information into a little string of characters, and that was the URL. So for getting into a file transfer protocol archive, you just put "FTP:" and then the little bits that you need to insert into the standard recipe for how to get into a file transfer archive. And that made life a lot simpler.

In fact, it made it so simple, you could write a program to do it all for you, if you typed in the URL. And then the next step is just to say, "Well, if we used hypertext, then we could make the computer display a piece of text, and behind a link, just underlying the link and behind the link, in fact, have hidden the URL of the place to go." So that was the -- basically, those were the steps, conceptual steps from what it was like then to using the Web.

GROSS: Now, the URL is the Uniform Resource Locator. It's basically the address of...

BERNERS-LEE: It's that thing that's...

GROSS: ... of a Web site.

BERNERS-LEE: Typically, nowadays, it starts "<a href="http://"">http://"</a> And I've got to say I'm kind of apologetic about that "//"


BERNERS-LEE: I didn't realize how...

GROSS: What don't you like about the "//"?

BERNERS-LEE: ... many people would be writing those down.

GROSS: So yeah, so the typical URL is "<a href=""">http://www.somethingsometh…; or ".org" or ".edu". Now, you say that this -- you know, that this address, the Uniform Resource Locator, was the most fundamental innovation of the Web design. Tell us a little bit more about the importance of coming up with this address system.

BERNERS-LEE: The importance of hypertext is you should be able to link to anything, anything which is accessible. Now, that's quite a lot to ask. Effectively, you're saying anybody who has any important information, please give it a URL.

And that's the most fundamental thing because after you've asked that, you can't ask very much else. You can't say "and pay me 10 cents." And you can't say "and use this particular form of word processor." You really can't put any other constraints. So all I said was give it a URL, and you can -- you don't have to use "http". "http" was my invention because it was a bit faster than FTP.

When you follow a hypertext link, really, you don't want to wait too much, and FTP was a recipe for getting things which involved rather a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the two computers. And I said, "Well, if you want to go faster, you can use http, and you can put your information on the Web in any format." You can use your favorite word processor documents, if you like. You can use any graphics format.

But if you want a simple one, a simple file format for describing a Web page with links, then, well, there's a format called HTML, which I defined. And you don't have to use that, but in fact, it turned out to my surprise that everybody picked up on this simple HTML format and started writing it by hand, even without using word processors which would create HTML. And that's how the Web initially spread.


GROSS: My guest is Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and author of the new book "Weaving the Web." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the Web. Now he has a book about it called "Weaving the Web."


You know, in your book you say that in the beginning, you were trying to explain that the World Wide Web isn't a thing in a place, it's a space in which information exists. Now, if you had told me that a few years ago, before I had been on the Web, I would have thought, "What are you talking about?"


BERNERS-LEE: There you go.

GROSS: It sounded so abstract and meaningless to me. Now I understand exactly what you mean. But it's awfully hard to describe a concept like this, you know, before it exists in people's minds.

BERNERS-LEE: Right, and the really funny thing is it's now really difficult to explain what it -- why it's hard to somebody who's used the Web. It's perfectly obvious. But early on, of course, a lot of information services had been dial-up services, where you dial into Lexis or Nexis or your favorite information provider, which would then have a computer which would have on it stored all sorts of information. And so it did exist on a huge computer somewhere in Ohio or wherever it was. So people naturally had this model.

So early on, people would ask where was the Web? How did we manage all this information? And how did they know we wouldn't -- the World Wide Web wouldn't break one day? And how would we control it? And there was an assumption that we were sitting there on top of a huge computer system somewhere with all the Web in it.

GROSS: Now, your job at Cern, the European particle physics lab at which you were working while creating the Web -- your job there wasn't to build the Web. What did they think of your efforts at the time and all the time you were putting into it? Were you criticized for the time that you were spending creating the Web?

BERNERS-LEE: No, I wasn't. I got a lot of useful feedback from everybody telling me the name "World Wide Web" was too difficult to say to people talking -- criticizing and helping with technical decisions. I never had a formal go-ahead for the World Wide Web as a formal project, but my boss, Mike Sendel (ph), was -- he just had a twinkle in his eye as he said "I'll" -- he'd sort of think about it.

And then he suggested that I should buy one of these Next machines I'd been talking about so enthusiastically because they did look fun, and we should probably just investigate what we could do with them. And if we needed a sort of test project to run on the Next machine to see what it was like as development environment, "Why not just do this hypertext thing you're talking about?" So Mike basically didn't say no, and he let me go and do it.

And then other people would find students who had been brought in for the summer and didn't have very much to do where they happened to turn up in the organization, and they would be sort of magically spirited across. And so Nicola Pella (ph), who wrote this early simple line-mode (ph) browser which opened the Web up to a lot of people, in fact, had been originally working on something else.

So once we got out onto the Internet, and once I started sending messages out, people in all kinds of places started to pick it up, generally without asking their managers. This was people before -- just before they went home at night after a long day of work, would pick up a message about a Web server. "Oh, that looks interesting. I'll install one of those to see what" -- and they'd send me a message. "Oh, by the way, I've stolen one of your Web server things, and I put some photos up" or "I've put some interesting information I had about mongooses" or whatever it is and -- mongeese? And that was the way it started.

GROSS: My guest is Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web. He has a new book about it called "Weaving the Web."

Since you were working at Cern, the European particle physics lab, when you created the Web, did Cern assume that it had ownership of the Web because you were its employee?

BERNERS-LEE: Technically, of course, it did, and -- but Cern is an academic place, and their primary business is not -- they're not there in order to spin off technology. But they had in the past spun off technology, things -- when they invented electronic devices for high-energy physics, for example, then typically those had gone out into industry to be manufactured. And there had been agreements. But there wasn't a lot of it. And when it came to something like this, really just a software technology, something potentially very big, they really didn't have any precedent to fall back on.

Now, for me it was very, very important that the Web should be totally open because when I said it must be universal, I was asking everybody to give any piece of important information a URL. And when you ask that, you can't ask anything else. You can't ask, for example, that they pay license fees to Cern, otherwise they'd immediately set up 10, 8 different competitive Webs, taking license fees, doing -- for other technologies, and we wouldn't have one World Wide Web. We'd have a whole lot of uninterconnected Webs, which would be a disaster.

So I asked for permission to release the technology for free, what's now called open source. And I -- in fact, it took 18 months and -- but eventually, we got a piece of paper with a Cern stamp on it and a director's signature saying that Cern would not charge anybody anything for any use of the World Wide Web technology. And that was a really important step in the Web's evolution.


GROSS: Tim Berners-Lee is the creator of the World Wide Web and the director of the World Wide Web Consortium. He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.



I'm Terry Gross, back with the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He now directs the World Wide Web consortium, a forum of businesses and organizations that agrees on Web protocols. Berners-Lee has written a new book called "Weaving the Web."

The Web really started a gold rush. You know, although you wanted it to be free and open and everything, some people have made a fortune through the Web, and many others are trying to make a fortune from it.

You have never tried to make a fortune from the Web. Every step of the way, you've tried to keep it free and open, as far as I know, and as far as others who have written about you know, you have never really tried to get personal profit from the Web, and many people wonder why not. It's such a kind of common impulse to try to make money on such an incredible invention.

BERNERS-LEE: Well, of course that was -- the decision point there was probably around 1993, when I felt very strongly that if the -- if I did control the whole thing, start and company and basically try using patents or intellectual property of some sort of control it, that it just wouldn't work. As I said, just as I didn't want CERN to license it and get a stranglehold on all Web information, I don't think I could too.

And I think I was right. If you look back at history, at the same time there was another system very similar to the Web, called Gopher, and it came from the University of Minnesota. And that was distributed for free across the Internet. At a certain point, the University of Minnesota woke up to the fact that a couple of guys working for them had produced this very popular system.

And so they announced that in the future, for commercial companies running a server under some circumstances, there will be some sort of nominal license fee, which would help them support the -- sort of the Gopher development.

And the effect of that announcement, tentative though it was, was, oh, just a shock wave across the Internet community. Academics dropped it because suddenly what they thought was -- were meetings at which they were opening -- openly discussing ideas, found that some of those ideas were being labeled as intellectual property. Companies instructed their engineers not to touch this, because if you use the technology into anything which becomes a product in principle, who knows what we could be sued for, just because you may have picked up ideas from that technology?

(INAUDIBLE) this thing was dropped like a hot potato all over the Internet, and everybody turned to me, saying, Well, look, if the University of Minnesota is doing this, then what is CERN going to do with the World Wide Web?

And that was -- I was 12 months into that 18-month process of trying to get a statement, and it really made it very, very much more important, and it -- and I realized that if then suddenly it was announced that the World Wide Web belongs to Tim Berners, and you have to pay, you know, a quarter of a cent per click, then that would be total -- it would be curtains. Everybody would be inventing cheaply the technology, finding ways to get round that. The result would be a total mess.

GROSS: So you finally concluded that there needed to be a consortium directing the future of the Web and making sure that it remained open. The World Wide Web Consortium, which you continue to direct, is based at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It also is based at universities in France and Japan, so it's based in three different countries, still very international.

How would you describe the role of this consortium now?

BERNERS-LEE: I wouldn't say directing. I basically -- the consortium is a place where people can come to discuss the future, and in particular to agree about ways to go forward in common. The Web technology has to be evolve, I mean, there are lots and lots of exciting ways for it to go. But we don't want the next version to be that -- a repeat of the incompatibility between, you know, the incompatibility we've seen because word processors, the sort of PAL-C-CAN (ph) versus NTSC difference in videotapes, between Europe and America.

We want it to go on being one Web. And the only way that can happen is that when the companies with all the bright ideas and the strong feelings about the future and the big investment want to go forward, that they have a place to meet and discuss, and that place is the World Wide Web consortium.

GROSS: Do you think that there might be a competitor to the World Wide Web which would be commercial and which would destroy your vision of the Web?

BERNERS-LEE: I think that the dangers of being taken over by some commercial entity aren't just a sort of parallel web being set up. It's ways in which -- the dangers are ways in which the Web could be perverted in one way or another. Obviously, if a company gets a total monopoly on hardware or on software, on information, or on Internet connections, for that matter, then they'll have a very strong control, and that's very dangerous.

But we know that, we know about monopolies, and everybody's always on the lookout for them.

I think that to me, a rather more sinister scenario is the vertical integration. It's that you buy a piece of hardware because it looks like a good deal, and you get -- and when you get this (INAUDIBLE) -- you get a piece -- you get a physical computer, and it comes with software on it, and it comes with a little Search the Web button, for example, on its keyboard.

And you boot it up, and when you press the Search the Web button, it says, Well, you need to connect to the Internet for this. Do you want to connect to the Internet? And so you say yes, and now this has all been set up. And with -- and the company which made the code, where it has a relationship with the company that make the software, and the company that made the software has a relationship with a particular Internet service provider. So when you press the Connect Me to the Internet button, it will connect you up to a particular Internet service provider, and you'll get a particular Web home page.

And when you press Search the Web next time, it will go to a particular search engine, and you say, I want to buy a pair of shoes. Now, it happens that not only is there a commercial relationship with the Internet service provider, but that Internet service provider and the person producing that home page has a commercial relationship with a particular shoe store. So when you say you want to buy a pair of shoes, then top of all this, even though it might not be the cheapest or the nearest shoe store, comes that particular one.

Now, you know that you've been told by people in your family, You've really got to get on the Internet, because it's great, and that's where I learnt -- I bought my shoes. So you believe that you've got the Internet.

Now, what is the Internet? Now, for me, the Internet should be like the road system, or like the postal service, it should be a very independent medium. It's very important when you get onto the Internet, you should be able to access any Web site without the software you're using or the hardware you're using or the person who's delivering the package to your door being able to somehow pervert your view of the world.

You can read any newspaper, but will they somehow try to make you read a particular newspapers?

It's the subtle things like that which I'm worried about, it's -- which, if you like, come down to the independence of the medium, and if -- and if you're listening to this, you're listening to public radio, you probably appreciate the independence of the medium. For me, that's really important.

GROSS: So you're concern is that through vertical organization, that there could be a browser that's connected to certain advertisers and to other commercial interests, so it maps this, like, shopping route for you where only, say, the stores or the sites that it has a vested interest in are the sites that are going to easily appear to you. And you're not even necessarily going to know that your information is being edited to suit this company's commercial interests.

BERNERS-LEE: That's right. In fact, I don't mind there being biased information out there. After all, there are company catalogs, they're all forms of marketing. But I think what's -- the crucial phase -- phrase you had there is, And you won't even know.

The important thing is that you should know when you're on the Web whether you're looking to get biased information or not. For example, if you go to a search engine now, when you do a search, is it possible to buy results on that search en -- service? Think about your favorite search service, the one you use for finding whe -- shoes to buy, for example.

Some of them, it's possible for a company to buy results, to buy the fact that their name will tend to crop up higher up in the list than other people. Others, they staunchly refuse to do that, and they allow advertising at the top in a banner, which you can identify, because you know there's an advertising banner at the top, and you know (INAUDIBLE) you understand in this medium that a banner is an ad.

Now, but they refuse to allow the actual content of the information to be perverted, to strike a deal. I think it's really important that the search engine companies, for example, should get together with -- and have some sort of branding, so that you know that you can distinguish, this is an independent search service, just as this is an independent news service.

You can't buy a positioning on this newswire. Same thing on the Web. We've got to have the same sort of ideas and independence.

GROSS: My guest is Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and author of the new book, "Weaving the Web." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and author of the new book, "Weaving the Web."

Now, the responsibility for assigning domain names was transferred last year from government contractors to ICANN, which is the acronym for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and numbers. So now if you -- if you're getting a Web address, coming up with a Web address, you have to register that address with ICANN. It -- do you think this is a good thing, that this group ICANN now has responsibility for registering Internet addresses?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, things are just starting. ICANN is being set up, and the way the political process around it works is being defined. (INAUDIBLE) is connected in to ICANN as a member of its -- as a protocol support organization. It's -- I think it's too early to judge whether the political system, whether the constitution of ICANN is going to really serve the people.

The -- I think this is crucial, it's crucial because when you look at those URLs, I said the Web was distributed, but in fact there is, like the ISBN, there is this domain name, the www-dot-something-dot-com in the middle, which is -- you know, which you do get by going into a basically centralized registration system. So effectively, indirectly, the organization controlling that centralized system has control over the domain names, and those to a certain extent has a little control over the Web. They can't control the content, but it can just control what names you can get.

And obviously names are very valuable, particular names are very valuable. So it's important to me, as a just fundamental democratic principle, that when there is a unique resource, that it all -- everybody needs to have a piece of, that it should be governed by the people, for the people, in a very democratic way.

I hope that ICANN will be set up in a very fair way, that if there are any commercial companies which are involved in actually doing the registrations, that there is fairness, that they can't take commercial advantage and end up charging a packet of money while producing a very bad service, all being unfair on a particular class of individual, of domain name owner.

So I just hope that we can do this sort of filling out the new constitution for this little piece of cyberspace very well.

GROSS: Yes, you said that the Web has one centralized Achilles heel, by which it can all be brought down or controlled, and that's the domain name system, which we -- we're talking about now. Why is that the Achilles heel?

BERNERS-LEE: Well, Achilles heel was the part of Achilles which had not been dipped in the water and therefore was not magically safe, and so it's the point which is -- the piece which is not immune. In this case it's the piece which is not decentralized.

So anybody can start a Web server, but, you know, any -- because anybody can connect to the Internet. Now, anybody can connect to the Internet, and you have a great choice of supplies, but you do have to get an I.P. address, you have to get an Internet protocol address for your machine. That's the thing which has numbers, like Wha -- little string of numbers which actually identify your machine.

So that's one thing which is distributed effect -- has to be dished out.

And then you need the domain name. And if you look at, for example, the, that belongs to LCS, the Lab for Computer Science, which got it from MIT, which owns, and MIT got that from effectively what is now ICANN, which controls the dot-edu domain.

So it all comes back to one root. So if, for example, you -- if somebody could charge a certain amount for every domain name, then they would -- they'd have a lot of control over the Web. If somebody -- for example, if a government had control and didn't -- and took away domain names from people who put information on the Web that they didn't like, then that would be censorship, that would be a form by which the government could sneak in and censor information, just removing somebody's I.P. address or their domain name.

So the -- there's a potential for a lot of control. There is not very much government that's needed on the Internet. In this case, there is some, so let's get it right.

GROSS: Are there limits to growth? Is there a point in which the Web will no longer be able to grow any further?

BERNERS-LEE: I think that there's no fundamental limit to the amount of information you can put on it. There's no limit to the amount of bandwidth you'll be able to get into people's homes. But remember that the Web effectively is a web of people, that these documents were written by and for people. It's a medium of communication between people at the moment.

And it's very important to remember that people are not changed. So even though the e-mail can bring you mail at incredible number of messages per day, you can't necessarily deal with them. The Web does allow you very quickly to do an analysis, to get and do the research, find the background material for a topic. But at the end of the day, there's a certain amount of material that you can process. There are a certain number of forums in which you can actually participate meaningfully. And you have to choose those.

So what the Web gives us is a bigger choice. It allows us to more constructively, more efficiently, select our place within society, if you like, as near -- figure out (INAUDIBLE) where we going to (INAUDIBLE) fit into this big brain, figure out which groups are really important, which people re really important to talk to. It gives us a bigger choice, so we may make a decision more effectively, so we'll be more efficient. But it won't change who we are in our fundamental to think things through, to have creative ideas.

GROSS: And to absorb information.

BERNERS-LEE: (INAUDIBLE) -- It won't change our ability to absorb information. It won't change our ability to be creative, to out of that information, do that wonderful thing which people do, and that is to create suddenly inspired new thoughts as a result of having read all the old ones.

GROSS: Well, Tim Berners-Lee, I want to thank you for talking with us, and I want to thank you for creating the World Wide Web. Thank you for being with us.

BERNERS-LEE: Terry, thank you for doing FRESH AIR.

GROSS: Tim Berners-Lee is the creator of the World Wide Web and the director of the World Wide Web Consortium. His new book is called "Weaving the Web."

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA.
Guest: Tim Berners-Lee
High: The creator of the Web, TIM BERNERS-LEE. The World Wide Web has been compared to Bell's telephone and Marconi's radio in it's revolutionary impact on the world. BERNERS-LEE has long maintained that the Web is for the common good, despite efforts by others to make it otherwise. His new book is "Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor." BERNERS-LEE is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium which coordinates Web development. (Harpers)
Spec: Technology; Information; Business

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview with World Wide Web Creator Tim Berners-Lee
Date: SEPTEMBER 17, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091602NP.217
Head: The Jeb Bishop Trio
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:45

TERRY GROSS, HOST, FRESH AIR: Our jazz critic, Kevin Whitehead, has a review of a new CD by the Jeb Bishop Trio. Kevin says in jazz, trios with horn, bass, and drums are common if the lead instrument is a saxophone. Trios fronted by trumpet players are far less common, although a few exist. But trios of trombone, bass, and drums are almost nonexistent -- almost.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, JAZZ CRITIC: Trombonists rarely get lonely playing in jazz bands. In a music where trumpet and saxophones rule, you seldom find trombone in groups that have less than three horns. It's as if the instrument never lived down the humble role it played in early jazz groups and 19th century bass bands, as if the horn itself were embarrassing reminder of jazz's homespun origins.

Trombonist Jeb Bishop puts his horn at the front of a very modern trio with bass and drums on a new CD from the Okkadisc label, without denying his horn's hollering roots.


WHITEHEAD: You can bet Jeb Bishop has listened to Roswell Rudd (ph), the master of reconciling marches, Dixieland, and avant-garde in the 1960s. Rudd's return to the road after many years off it has been a wakeup call for a few young trombonists.

Jeb Bishop and his mates are part of a community of musicians in Chicago who collaborate both with European free improvisers and with some local jazz elders. Unlike some open improvisers who wander away from swinging rhythm, these guys can find their way back.

The drummer here is Tim Mulvenna (ph) and the bass player, Kent Kessler.


WHITEHEAD: The compact tunes and stark trio sound on Jeb Bishop's new CD complement each other very well, but the ambling improvisations can undercut that economy. Averaging out at 10 minutes each, these pieces feel a little bit long.

One more thing modern improvisers can learn from the marches and New Orleans jazz that inform this music is a sense of proportion. First rule of show business, always leave them wanting more.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead reviewed the new CD by the Jeb Bishop Trio on the Okkadisc label.

Coming up, a review of the new TV series "Action."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Kevin Whitehead
High: Jazz critic KEVIN WHITEHEAD reviews the new release by the Jeb Bishop Trio (Okkadisc label).
Spec: Music Industry; Entertainment; Art

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Jeb Bishop TrioShow: FRESH AIR
Date: SEPTEMBER 17, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091603NP.217
Head: "Action" on Fox
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST, FRESH AIR: Tonight in prime time, the Fox network airs what many critics have said is the most bold or at least controversially raw series ever produced on network TV. It's called "Action," and TV critic David Bianculli has this look at the series and at the controversy.

But first, a recap of his most confident Emmy prediction.



DAVID BIANCULLI: In the supporting actress in a drama category, the winner will be Nancy Marchand, who plays Livia, the nasty matriarch of "The Sopranos." It's not that the other nominees are bad, it's just that Marchand, in a complete turnaround from her role as Mrs. Pynchon on "Lou Grant," was that good.

If she doesn't win, I'm doing next week's show in the nude, and that's something you don't even want to hear.


GROSS: Well, David, you might be able to fool the radio audience, but I'm here to say, you're wearing clothes. And I think you owe us an explanation.

BIANCULLI: Yes, well -- well, thanks for noticing, first of all. But I -- well, you know, what can I say? She should have won, but fortunately I'm not a man of my word.

GROSS: But it's my job to hold you to your word to review this week's new series, "Action."

BIANCULLI: Oh, OK. That -- I didn't know where that sentence was going.

OK, first, let's look at the controversy. Not the one about me, the one about "Action."

You have to realize where network TV is right now. Imagine a kid who used to be an only child who's now got a bunch of brothers and sisters. It's summer, it's poolside, there are lots of distractions, but the kid wants the attention of his parents. So he acts up and does whatever he can.

Hey, Mom, look at me.

Now think of the broadcast networks as that kid, and cable and the Internet and other distractions as the siblings, and us viewers as the parents.

Figuratively and sometimes literally, the networks are screaming, Hey, look at me! They don't just desire our attention. To survive, they need it. So every few years, to combat against the freedom of cable or simply to build word of mouth in advance and stand out from the pack, a network will try to put on a show that pushes the envelope.

Thirty years ago it happened in prime time with the weekly irreverence of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" and "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." Twenty years ago it happened with the naughty comedy of "Soap" and the groundbreaking drama of "Hill Street Blues."

In the '90s, broadcast TV pushed the boundaries with "NYPD Blue" and is about to push them again with "Action."

Most of these shows have several things in common. They set out to do things differently, they were attacked in advance by pressure groups and advertisers worried about their content, and once the viewing public saw and liked the shows and made them hits, the controversies died away and new standards were set.

The secret in this attention-getting business is that when you cry, Hey, look at me! it only pays off if you're good.

Back in the '80s, a family-hour sitcom named "Uncle Buck" tried to get attention in its pilot episode by having a little kid say the phrase "You suck." The show got attention, all right, but almost all of it was negative, because "Uncle Buck" was horrible.

And even Stephen Bochco, who pulled off the Look at me! trick so well with "Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue," played the card once too often with his more recent "Brooklyn South." That show opened with an unprecedented level of violence, but viewers didn't want to stick around for the series.

So now we arrive at "Action," at a time in TV history when HBO just gave us the brilliant and uncensored "Larry Sanders Show" and is doing the same thing in drama with "The Sopranos." It's no accident that "Action" was developed originally for HBO. It feels like a cable show. And, except for the bleeps, it sounds like one.

And "Action," like the best envelope-pushers before it, is damn good. Jay Moore (ph), who played the sports agent who stole business away from Tom Cruise in "Jerry McGuire," stars in "Action" as an even more conniving character. He's Peter Dragon, a young Hollywood executive who makes movies and enemies without really stopping to think about what he's doing. Like the show itself, he's always in motion and always pushing hard.

How hard? Here's the very first scene, where we're introduced to Moore's Peter Dragon as the central character. He drives recklessly through the studio lot, talking on his cell phone all the way, and comes to a screeching halt in a parking space reserved for Manny Sanchez, employee of the month. Understandably, Manny, who parks right behind him, doesn't like this too much.


JAY MOORE, ACTOR: No, hey, him, you better call back, because I don't want to...


MOORE: He can wait.

ACTOR: Hey, hi, hi, I'm Manny Sanchez from the commissary, and I'm the employee of the month.

MOORE: Oh, that's fantastic, man. Yeah, what is that, some kind of an award for not peeing in the Cobb salads?

ACTOR: I never pee in the Cobb salads.

MOORE: really? That's too bad. Because if I was you, I would pee in the Cobb salads. In fact, I would pee in every (bleep) Cobb salad every (bleep) day, so every one of those (bleep) in that commissary would have had a little taste of Peter (bleep) Dragon.

But you know what, Manny? That's just me. Move.

ACTOR: You're Peter Dragon.

MOORE: Hold on. Yeah. I'm Peter Dragon, that's right. And while you've admirably restrained yourself over the years from peeing in the Cobb salads, I've made 10 motion pictures that have earned this studio a billion dollars. So I'm going to continue to park wherever the (bleep) I want, because unfortunately for you, I'm employee of the (bleep) century.

Congratulations on your award. Your parents must be very proud.


BIANCULLI: The bottom line is, "Action" works. Moore is a hoot, the best-love-to-hate-him TV character since Dabney Coleman's Buffalo Bill. And co-stars Illeana Douglas and Buddy Hackett are just as sharp.

Granted, "Action" won't be for everybody. If you're offended by bad language or bad behavior, don't even bother tuning in.

But the Fox audience, which found and still supports "The Simpsons," will find it and love it, even on a Thursday night, aggressively programmed against NBC's must-see TV.

If you want to catch the freshest and funniest comedy of the fall season, here it comes, full speed ahead.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for "The New York Daily News."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: David Bianculli
High: TV critic DAVID BIANCULLI previews "Action" the controversial new show that premieres on the FOX network tonight.
Spec: Radio and Televsion; Entertainment; Comedy

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "Action" on Fox
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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