Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Is Apple helping kill the Web?

November 19, 2010: 11:18 AM ET

For its 20th anniversary, the man who invented the World Wide Web sounds a warning

Sir Timothy. Photo: Paul Clarke via Wikipedia

Totalitarian governments. Cable monopolies. Magazine smartphone apps. The walled gardens of giant social networking sites. And Apple's (AAPL) iTunes music store.

These are some of the things Tim Berners-Lee, who launched the World Wide Web in December 1990 -- on one of Steve Jobs' NeXT computers, we might add -- cites as threats to its survival.

The Web, he writes in a long Scientific American article posted Friday, was built on principles of openness and egalitarianism and three simple protocols: HTML, HTTP and the URL (which he calls the URI).

Not using these open standards, he warns, creates closed worlds. Like iTunes:

Apple's iTunes system, for example, identifies songs and videos using URIs that are open. But instead of "http:" the addresses begin with "itunes:," which is proprietary. You can access an "itunes:" link only using Apple's proprietary iTunes program. You can't make a link to any information in the iTunes world—a song or information about a band. You can't send that link to someone else to see. You are no longer on the Web. The iTunes world is centralized and walled off. You are trapped in a single store, rather than being on the open marketplace. For all the store's wonderful features, its evolution is limited to what one company thinks up.

Sir Timothy has a point. You can read his full article here.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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