Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Robert Cailliau: Internet-Fuehrerscheinpflicht?

------- Forwarded message follows ------- Date sent: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 12:49:48 -0500 From: Barry Steinhardt <> Subject: FC: Web coinventor says no access to Net w/out government "license" To: Send reply to:

[Sounds like Robert Cailliau and Louis Freeh have a lot in common.]

Saturday November 27 3:04 AM ET

Web Co-Inventor Backs Licensing

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - 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 road.

``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 there.''

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?''

Offensive Sites

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 frontiers.

``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 said.

Single Namespace

``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 said.

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 Microsoft.

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 said.

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Barry Steinhardt Associate Director American Civil Liberties Union 125 Broad St NY,NY 10004 212 549 2508 (v)

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