Re: WWW Bill Of Rights?

Brian Behlendorf (
Fri, 20 Jan 1995 03:16:01 +0100

On Fri, 20 Jan 1995, Daniel W. Connolly wrote:
> I wonder if this will have an effect similar to when America Online
> started supporting USENET news: a whole mess of people suddenly had
> access to USENET without knowing much about it, especially the culture
> and the rules of netiquite.

It'll be much different, mainly because most of the web is one-way
content unaffected by the number or type of people who visit, unlike
USENET where the content is entirely viewer-driven. Now, if/when Prodigy
and AOL were to allow people to put home pages up, it might be a
different matter... but even then it's hard to see that "cluelessness"
will be a problem, as ugly sites will just not get visited, meanwhile
the potential for attractive and useful pages will be improved.
Collaborative filtering tools will help when they arrive, and until then
voluntary filters (like NetSurfer Digest and HotWired) will suffice.

> * On the other hand, nothing is currently keeping information providers
> from lying about their readership. In the magazine business, there are
> auditors that will check claims like "we have a 10,1000 [sic] qualified
> subscribers."

Which was one reason we went to a subscriber-based system rather than try
and prop up the lie of "hitrates". At any rate, I'm sure you'll see some
form of Neilsens-ish rating system being deployed at some point in the
future. The technology is already there....

> * I'd rather not get into discussion of when little Johnny that
> discovers via Prodigy, and Johnny's mom sues
> prodigy for violating the terms of service... but somebody's got to
> figure out how to resolve those things. I think some folks might
> consider it a valuable service if Prodigy would strive to filter out
> nasty stuff. Technically, I don't see how they could. I think they'll
> have to wash their hands of liability on this issue somehow, but...

When you download Prodigy's web browser is has you "sign" a message
stating something to the effect of "Warning! You are leaving Prodigy's
site and entering the wild untamed Internet! You will find adult
material here - please sign here to verify that you are at least 18 years
of age". Sounds like a good solution, preferable to them hiring
Concerned Parents of America to surf the web and tell the Prodigy proxy
cache what not to allow through :)

> Is this Bill of Rights something that the IETF or the W3O should try
> to write up and maintain? (I hope nobody expects them to enforce
> it...) Do the documents concerning adding a host to the Internet,
> maintaining an FTP archive, and posting to Usenet cover all the
> issues, or are there some novel issues that should be hammered out and
> spelled out?

I'd rather not see that happen... I think solutions to these problems
will come organically and in accordance with other societal norms, even
given that those norms vary from country to country. I don't see how a
document like that could remain apolitical, and thus subject to the tides
of political sentiment.