World Wide Web Turns 35: Inventor’s Forecasts, from AI Assistants to Big Tech’s Future

Personal artificial intelligence assistants that possess comprehensive knowledge of our health status and legal history. The seamless transfer of data from one location to another without encountering any obstacles.

These are just a few foresights for the future of the web, as outlined by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, on its 35th anniversary.

Berners-Lee, hailing from London, is hailed as the mastermind behind this transformative technology, conceived in 1989 during his tenure at CERN, the Swiss particle physics research center.

The computer scientist proposed an information management system to facilitate information sharing among his peers.

“When it started, I couldn’t have predicted that it was going to be like this, this change,” reflects Berners-Lee on the inception of his invention.

He persevered with his vision, and by 1991, the World Wide Web was operational.

A snapshot of the first web page, taken on April 30, 2013, in Geneva, encapsulates the genesis of this groundbreaking technology. Berners-Lee’s initiative to release the Web protocol and source code into the public domain in 1993, sans patents or fees, is credited with fueling the Web’s exponential growth.

Reflecting on the early days of the web, Berners-Lee recalls signs indicating its burgeoning influence. Traffic to the inaugural website,, surged exponentially, signaling the need for robust infrastructure to sustain its growth.

Yet, Berners-Lee acknowledges the downsides that have accompanied the web’s evolution. AI-driven social media algorithms have exacerbated negative emotions, while the proliferation of user-generated content has led to a loss of control over personal data.

Despite these challenges, Berners-Lee remains sanguine about the future. Here are some of his key prognostications for the web’s trajectory over the next 35 years.

Prediction 1: Personal AI Assistants for All

Tim Berners-Lee envisions a significant shift in our interaction with the web driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

The emergence of generative AI tools, exemplified by Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, suggests a future where consumers heavily rely on digital chatbots for various tasks, from obtaining information to crafting written content and even coding.

World Wide Web Turns 35: Inventor's Forecasts, from AI Assistants to Big Tech's Future
Personal AI assistants: Revolutionizing interaction, enhancing productivity, and empowering users with personalized support. (Credits: iStock)

Leading tech companies, such as Samsung with its Galaxy S24 smartphone and U.S. startup Humane AI with its wearable Pin device, are already exploring novel ways to integrate AI into our web experience.

Berners-Lee foresees a time when AI assistants will be as integral to our lives as doctors, lawyers, and bankers.

“Some people worry about whether, in 35 years, AI will be more powerful than us,” he remarked in a recent Zoom call with CNBC.

“One of the things I predict — but it’s something we may have to fight for — is you will have an AI assistant, which you can trust, and it works for you, like a doctor.”

Robert Blumofe, global chief technology officer of Akamai, shares a similar outlook, envisioning a future where AI agents replace humans in interacting with the web.

“You can imagine a world years from now where the web is a realm of AI agents and humans no longer effectively use the web,” he mused in an interview with CNBC.

“It would all be done through AI agents; you would never go directly to your bank account online, or your health provider online, or any e-commerce sites.”

While Blumofe believes that humans will still turn to the web for entertainment purposes like TV shows, movies, and video games, he anticipates AI managing most of our daily online tasks.

“Human beings can go back to our lives in the physical world greeting each other face to face as a physical experience, rather than a virtual experience,” he added.

Prediction 2: Data Ownership Revolution

Tim Berners-Lee envisages a future web where individuals have complete control over their data. Instead of surrendering ownership to tech behemoths like Google, Meta, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, users will retain sovereignty over their data through a personal data store, or “pod.”

“Think of your data pod as your digital space, something you’re intimately familiar with,” Berners-Lee elaborates.

World Wide Web Turns 35: Inventor's Forecasts, from AI Assistants to Big Tech's Future
Data ownership revolution: Pods empower users, ensure privacy, and redefine digital interactions across platforms. (Credits: iStock)

This concept of pods is central to Berners-Lee’s work with his startup, Inrupt. Inrupt is pioneering the Solid protocol, which seeks to revolutionize web applications, ensuring true data ownership and enhanced privacy.

In 2022, Inrupt secured $30 million in funding from venture capital firms such as Forte Ventures, Akamai, and Glasswing Ventures, underlining the growing interest in Berners-Lee’s vision.

In Berners-Lee’s vision of the future web, digital pods serve as centralized hubs for accessing essential applications across various devices, from smartphones to desktop computers to larger screens like TVs.

Moreover, Berners-Lee advocates for the development of “trust apps” that facilitate seamless communication and data sharing between different services, streamlining tasks and enhancing efficiency.

For instance, purchasing flights could involve using a digital wallet to access a flight aggregator, granting access to specific data to personalize travel plans.

“All of your to-do lists, calendar events, and other data will converge, empowering you to lead a more enriched life,” Berners-Lee envisions.

Chintan Patel, chief technology officer for Cisco in the U.K., believes that the web is evolving towards openness and enhanced information-sharing capabilities.

“Despite the increasing fragmentation of the web and the rise of siloed platforms, where information is often collected, sold, and misused, Patel acknowledges that tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, along with other generative AI technologies, draw from data sourced from the open web,” Patel remarked.

“Despite its flaws, the web has undeniably brought numerous benefits to society and enabled countless possibilities,” Patel emphasized.

Berners-Lee envisions his web vision extending into virtual and mixed reality realms, where the physical and digital worlds seamlessly interact through advanced headsets.

“With VR and mixed reality, you can engage in activities with a VR headset and seamlessly transition to a large screen when you remove the headset,” Berners-Lee described. “The experience will be fluid across different devices, ensuring continuity regardless of the medium.”

Mixed reality represents a novel dimension for web access, expected to become increasingly familiar over time.

“There will be significant shifts towards enhanced digital connectivity,” Patel asserted in an interview with CNBC. “It will evolve into a form of spatial computing and spatial environment, offering an immersive experience rather than something users actively seek out.”

Prediction 3: Potential Breakup of Big Tech

Tim Berners-Lee suggests a scenario where a major tech conglomerate might face the prospect of being dismantled.

The recent enactment of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) signifies a significant milestone in regulating tech giants, compelling them to adjust their platforms to foster competition from rival products. This legislation aims to foster a healthier landscape of tech competition, heralding a new era of accountability.

World Wide Web Turns 35: Inventor's Forecasts, from AI Assistants to Big Tech's Future
Potential breakup of big tech: Regulatory landscape evolves, accountability enforced, and monopolistic tendencies scrutinized. (Credits: iStock)

Under the DMA, the European Commission wields substantial legal authority to penalize non-compliant tech firms. Penalties could include fines of up to 10% of a company’s global annual revenues, escalating to 20% for repeat offenders.

In extreme cases, the Commission reserves the authority to mandate the breakup of companies, although legal experts consider this outcome improbable due to the formidable legal obstacles Brussels might encounter.

Berners-Lee advocates for proactive corporate responsibility, emphasizing the importance of tech companies voluntarily adhering to ethical standards before regulatory intervention becomes necessary. “That’s always been the spirit of the internet,” he notes.

He cites the Data Transfer Initiative as an example of industry-led efforts to promote data portability, a movement supported by major players like Google, Apple, and Meta. While regulatory pressure may have spurred initial action, Berners-Lee underscores the initiative’s independent nature.

However, he acknowledges the rapidly evolving landscape of AI and the emergence of monopolistic tendencies within the sector. Drawing parallels to past disruptions in the web, Berners-Lee suggests that future regulatory interventions may entail the breakup of dominant tech entities, although the identity of the targeted company remains uncertain.

As the tech industry undergoes seismic shifts, the prospect of regulatory intervention looms large, prompting reflection on the need for responsible governance and corporate accountability.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x