Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Time flies.

  • It's actually almost 20 years ago

  • when I wanted to reframe the way we use information,

  • the way we work together: I invented the World Wide Web.

  • Now, 20 years on, at TED,

  • I want to ask your help in a new reframing.

  • So going back to 1989,

  • I wrote a memo suggesting the global hypertext system.

  • Nobody really did anything with it, pretty much.

  • But 18 months later -- this is how innovation happens --

  • 18 months later, my boss said I could do it on the side,

  • as a sort of a play project,

  • kick the tires of a new computer we'd got.

  • And so he gave me the time to code it up.

  • So I basically roughed out what HTML should look like:

  • hypertext protocol, HTTP;

  • the idea of URLs, these names for things

  • which started with HTTP.

  • I wrote the code and put it out there.

  • Why did I do it?

  • Well, it was basically frustration.

  • I was frustrated -- I was working as a software engineer

  • in this huge, very exciting lab,

  • lots of people coming from all over the world.

  • They brought all sorts of different computers with them.

  • They had all sorts of different data formats,

  • all sorts, all kinds of documentation systems.

  • So that, in all that diversity,

  • if I wanted to figure out how to build something

  • out of a bit of this and a bit of this,

  • everything I looked into, I had to connect to some new machine,

  • I had to learn to run some new program,

  • I would find the information I wanted in some new data format.

  • And these were all incompatible.

  • It was just very frustrating.

  • The frustration was all this unlocked potential.

  • In fact, on all these discs there were documents.

  • So if you just imagined them all

  • being part of some big, virtual documentation system in the sky,

  • say on the Internet,

  • then life would be so much easier.

  • Well, once you've had an idea like that it kind of gets under your skin

  • and even if people don't read your memo --

  • actually he did, it was found after he died, his copy.

  • He had written, "Vague, but exciting," in pencil, in the corner.

  • (Laughter)

  • But in general it was difficult -- it was really difficult to explain

  • what the web was like.

  • It's difficult to explain to people now that it was difficult then.

  • But then -- OK, when TED started, there was no web

  • so things like "click" didn't have the same meaning.

  • I can show somebody a piece of hypertext,

  • a page which has got links,

  • and we click on the link and bing -- there'll be another hypertext page.

  • Not impressive.

  • You know, we've seen that -- we've got things on hypertext on CD-ROMs.

  • What was difficult was to get them to imagine:

  • so, imagine that that link could have gone

  • to virtually any document you could imagine.

  • Alright, that is the leap that was very difficult for people to make.

  • Well, some people did.

  • So yeah, it was difficult to explain, but there was a grassroots movement.

  • And that is what has made it most fun.

  • That has been the most exciting thing,

  • not the technology, not the things people have done with it,

  • but actually the community, the spirit of all these people

  • getting together, sending the emails.

  • That's what it was like then.

  • Do you know what? It's funny, but right now it's kind of like that again.

  • I asked everybody, more or less, to put their documents --

  • I said, "Could you put your documents on this web thing?"

  • And you did.

  • Thanks.

  • It's been a blast, hasn't it?

  • I mean, it has been quite interesting

  • because we've found out that the things that happen with the web

  • really sort of blow us away.

  • They're much more than we'd originally imagined

  • when we put together the little, initial website

  • that we started off with.

  • Now, I want you to put your data on the web.

  • Turns out that there is still huge unlocked potential.

  • There is still a huge frustration

  • that people have because we haven't got data on the web as data.

  • What do you mean, "data"? What's the difference -- documents, data?

  • Well, documents you read, OK?

  • More or less, you read them, you can follow links from them, and that's it.

  • Data -- you can do all kinds of stuff with a computer.

  • Who was here or has otherwise seen Hans Rosling's talk?

  • One of the great -- yes a lot of people have seen it --

  • one of the great TED Talks.

  • Hans put up this presentation

  • in which he showed, for various different countries, in various different colors --

  • he showed income levels on one axis

  • and he showed infant mortality, and he shot this thing animated through time.

  • So, he'd taken this data and made a presentation

  • which just shattered a lot of myths that people had

  • about the economics in the developing world.

  • He put up a slide a little bit like this.

  • It had underground all the data

  • OK, data is brown and boxy and boring,

  • and that's how we think of it, isn't it?

  • Because data you can't naturally use by itself

  • But in fact, data drives a huge amount of what happens in our lives

  • and it happens because somebody takes that data and does something with it.

  • In this case, Hans had put the data together

  • he had found from all kinds of United Nations websites and things.

  • He had put it together,

  • combined it into something more interesting than the original pieces

  • and then he'd put it into this software,

  • which I think his son developed, originally,

  • and produces this wonderful presentation.

  • And Hans made a point

  • of saying, "Look, it's really important to have a lot of data."

  • And I was happy to see that at the party last night

  • that he was still saying, very forcibly, "It's really important to have a lot of data."

  • So I want us now to think about

  • not just two pieces of data being connected, or six like he did,

  • but I want to think about a world where everybody has put data on the web

  • and so virtually everything you can imagine is on the web

  • and then calling that linked data.

  • The technology is linked data, and it's extremely simple.

  • If you want to put something on the web there are three rules:

  • first thing is that those HTTP names --

  • those things that start with "http:" --

  • we're using them not just for documents now,

  • we're using them for things that the documents are about.

  • We're using them for people, we're using them for places,

  • we're using them for your products, we're using them for events.

  • All kinds of conceptual things, they have names now that start with HTTP.

  • Second rule, if I take one of these HTTP names and I look it up

  • and I do the web thing with it and I fetch the data

  • using the HTTP protocol from the web,

  • I will get back some data in a standard format

  • which is kind of useful data that somebody might like to know

  • about that thing, about that event.

  • Who's at the event? Whatever it is about that person,

  • where they were born, things like that.

  • So the second rule is I get important information back.

  • Third rule is that when I get back that information

  • it's not just got somebody's height and weight and when they were born,

  • it's got relationships.

  • Data is relationships.

  • Interestingly, data is relationships.

  • This person was born in Berlin; Berlin is in Germany.

  • And when it has relationships, whenever it expresses a relationship

  • then the other thing that it's related to

  • is given one of those names that starts HTTP.

  • So, I can go ahead and look that thing up.

  • So I look up a person -- I can look up then the city where they were born; then

  • I can look up the region it's in, and the town it's in,

  • and the population of it, and so on.

  • So I can browse this stuff.

  • So that's it, really.

  • That is linked data.

  • I wrote an article entitled "Linked Data" a couple of years ago

  • and soon after that, things started to happen.

  • The idea of linked data is that we get lots and lots and lots

  • of these boxes that Hans had,

  • and we get lots and lots and lots of things sprouting.

  • It's not just a whole lot of other plants.

  • It's not just a root supplying a plant,

  • but for each of those plants, whatever it is --

  • a presentation, an analysis, somebody's looking for patterns in the data --

  • they get to look at all the data

  • and they get it connected together,

  • and the really important thing about data

  • is the more things you have to connect together, the more powerful it is.

  • So, linked data.

  • The meme went out there.

  • And, pretty soon Chris Bizer at the Freie Universitat in Berlin

  • who was one of the first people to put interesting things up,

  • he noticed that Wikipedia --

  • you know Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia

  • with lots and lots of interesting documents in it.

  • Well, in those documents, there are little squares, little boxes.

  • And in most information boxes, there's data.

  • So he wrote a program to take the data, extract it from Wikipedia,

  • and put it into a blob of linked data

  • on the web, which he called dbpedia.

  • Dbpedia is represented by the blue blob in the middle of this slide

  • and if you actually go and look up Berlin,

  • you'll find that there are other blobs of data

  • which also have stuff about Berlin, and they're linked together.

  • So if you pull the data from dbpedia about Berlin,

  • you'll end up pulling up these other things as well.

  • And the exciting thing is it's starting to grow.

  • This is just the grassroots stuff again, OK?

  • Let's think about data for a bit.

  • Data comes in fact in lots and lots of different forms.

  • Think of the diversity of the web. It's a really important thing

  • that the web allows you to put all kinds of data up there.

  • So it is with data. I could talk about all kinds of data.

  • We could talk about government data, enterprise data is really important,

  • there's scientific data, there's personal data,

  • there's weather data, there's data about events,

  • there's data about talks, and there's news and there's all kinds of stuff.

  • I'm just going to mention a few of them

  • so that you get the idea of the diversity of it,

  • so that you also see how much unlocked potential.

  • Let's start with government data.

  • Barack Obama said in a speech,

  • that he -- American government data would be available on the Internet

  • in accessible formats.

  • And I hope that they will put it up as linked data.

  • That's important. Why is it important?

  • Not just for transparency, yeah transparency in government is important,

  • but that data -- this is the data from all the government departments

  • Think about how much of that data is about how life is lived in America.

  • It's actual useful. It's got value.

  • I can use it in my company.

  • I could use it as a kid to do my homework.

  • So we're talking about making the place, making the world run better

  • by making this data available.

  • In fact if you're responsible -- if you know about some data

  • in a government department, often you find that

  • these people, they're very tempted to keep it --

  • Hans calls it database hugging.

  • You hug your database, you don't want to let it go

  • until you've made a beautiful website for it.

  • Well, I'd like to suggest that rather --

  • yes, make a beautiful website,

  • who am I to say don't make a beautiful website?

  • Make a beautiful website, but first

  • give us the unadulterated data,

  • we want the data.

  • We want unadulterated data.

  • OK, we have to ask for raw data now.

  • And I'm going to ask you to practice that, OK?

  • Can you say "raw"?

  • Audience: Raw.

  • Tim Berners-Lee: Can you say "data"?

  • Audience: Data.

  • TBL: Can you say "now"?

  • Audience: Now!

  • TBL: Alright, "raw data now"!

  • Audience: Raw data now!

  • Practice that. It's important because you have no idea the number of excuses

  • people come up with to hang onto their data

  • and not give it to you, even though you've paid for it as a taxpayer.

  • And it's not just America. It's all over the world.

  • And it's not just governments, of course -- it's enterprises as well.