Native apps are boring and people are becoming frustrated with walled gardens online, according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The inventor of the web took part in a Q&A at Le Web this morning that touched on a broad range of topics, with net neutrality and internet privacy high on the agenda.

But Sir Tim also gave his views on the problem with native apps, particularly magazine apps

He believes they are harking back to the days when everything was printed on paper.

If you take your magazine and put it in an app it’s boring, it’s not part of the discussion.

Everyone loses if it’s not on the web. If it’s online everyone can see it and link to it, you are part of the conversation.

Sir Tim also had strong words for Facebook and other platforms that have created walled gardens on the internet.

Preventing people from sharing their information across different platforms is beginning to cause a lot of frustration as users have invested a lot of time building their profiles with photos and other content.

This problem that is intensified when users decide they want to join a new network, as they have to rebuild all their connections.

Thankfully this has led to a new wave of companies that have a different attitude to data.

They’re saying to users, ‘this is your data, you own it, you can have it back if you want it’.

For several examples of companies empowering consumers by giving them greater access to personal data, read my post on startups that are disrupting the life sciences industry.

Net Neutrality

Much of the second half of the Q&A was devoted to the issue of net neutrality and how it can be protected.

Sir Tim’s view is that the discussion has been too focused on distractions like the movie industry, when in fact much of what we do on the internet is very intimate, such as banking, private messaging, or looking for a diagnosis for an illness.

The internet is critical to our everyday lives so we should be able to use it without feeling that someone is looking over our shoulder.

Furthermore, it shouldn’t be up to ISPs or governments to dictate which sites receive preferential treatment or load more quickly than others.

This is a hugely powerful tool that is obviously open to abuse – to give a very basic example, you could slow down page speeds for a particular political party so people abandon it and go to another.

Sir Tim suggested that it’s up to internet users to insist on net neutrality, citing the SOPA protests as an example of how protests can impact policy.

However he also admitted to being slightly pessimistic about the chance of overcoming the lobby groups and cable companies seeking to control the web experience.

David Moth

Published 10 December, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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James Hogan, Account Director at Momentum ABM

Native apps are boring? Tim Berners Lee says so? Panic... Oh, only magazine apps are boring. Phew! Trouble is, native apps can actually do more than can be done within a browser today - progressive augmented reality experiences for example - and whilst ubiquitous wireless or 4G connectivity is getting closer it's not here yet either. Web versus app is a fascinating and ongoing debate but it seems to me than the specific user experience in question is rarely at the heart of it.

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