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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 11:01 GMT
Q&A: Web science
Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said he wants to set up a web science research project to study the social implications of the web's development.

BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh talked exclusively to the British web pioneer about his plans.

PG: What is web science?

TBL: Web science is a study of the web. It's also the engineering of the web to make it more exciting than the one we currently have.

The nice thing about the internet is that it's an open space which doesn't have a central controlling place. It doesn't have any constraining rules. I therefore tried to design the web in the same way - like a huge blank sheet of paper. And so the web in turn is giving rise to all these other phenomena.

What we're saying is that it's becoming so important that things like Wikipedia are being created, new business models are emerging and that it's changing our lives so much that we have to have a science to understand this.

PG: Why do we need a specific science to study the web

TBL: If we don't have the ability to understand the web as its now emerging we will end up with things that are very bad. Certain undemocratic things could emerge and misinformation starts spreading over the web.

Studying these forces and the way they're affected by the underlying technology are one of the things that we think is really important.

PG: You talk about a need for a new science of the web but couldn't you predict how the web will develop by using simple market research techniques?

TBL: Yes you do have to have market research, but you also have to have sociology and psychology. You also need to understand the underlying technology to make sure for example that the server isn't going to fall over when so many people use it.

So all kinds of disciplines are going to have to converge. People with all kinds of skills are going to have to work together to build a new web which is going to be even better.

PG: What is your vision for this new better web?

TBL: The most important thing is that it is a creative medium. I really don't want to say the kinds of things I want people to build. The most important thing is that we will all be astonished by the things that people build using the technology.

The new web has to be powerful. It has to have features that it doesn't have at the moment. These features should allow us to express the social properties of information which specify what it is, where its from and how trustworthy it is.

PG: The implication of this new initiative is that there's currently no proper training for people developing the web

TBL: There aren't any courses at the moment and it hasn't really been brought together. We're hearing complaints from companies when they need people that really understand the medium from both the technological and social side.

When you look at university courses, web science isn't there - it seems to fall through the cracks. So we'd like to put it on the curriculum so that there are a lot more people who understand this.

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