A Manifesto for Web Science @10
Twenty-seven years ago, one of the biggest societal changes in human history began slowly when the technical foundations for the World Wide Web were defined by Tim Berners-Lee. Ever since, the Web has grown exponentially, reaching far beyond its original technical foundations and deeply affecting the world today – and even more so the society of the future. We have seen that the Web can influence the realization of human rights and even the pursuit of happiness. The Web provides an infrastructure to help us to learn, to work, to communicate with loved ones, and to provide entertainment. However, it also creates an environment affected by the digital divide between those who have and those who do not have access. Additionally, the Web provides challenges we must understand if we are to find a viable balance between data ownership and privacy protection, between over-whelming surveillance and the prevention of terrorism. For the Web to succeed, we need to understand its societal challenges including increased crime, the impact of social platforms and socio-economic discrimination, and we must work towards fairness, social inclusion, and open governance.
Ten Yars ago, the field of Web Science was created to explore the science underlying the Web from a socio-technical perspective including its mathematical properties, engineering principles, and social impacts. Ten years later, we are learning much as the interdisciplinary endeavor to understand the Web’s global information space continues to grow.
In this article we want to elicit the major lessons we have learned through Web Science and make some cautious predictions of what to expect next.