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Computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Photo: Francois G. Durand/Getty Images

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, says the fact that the internet is controlled by a handful of dominant companies likely means the next 20 years will be much less innovative than the last — and a "regulatory framework" may help address the new concentration of power.

Why it matters: Today is the Web's 29th birthday, and one of its biggest boosters is joining critics by calling out the danger brewing in the current online landscape. As Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter posted Sunday evening, the web has changed drastically since its early days. A vibrant array of websites "has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms" that have created "a new set of gatekeepers" that control how ideas are shared.

The backdrop: Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube have been under fire for not controlling the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories or preventing foreign manipulation designed to sow discord among Americans. These companies, along with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, also have amassed an enormous amount of personal data from their users, helping to seal their competitive advantage, Berners-Lee says — echoing concerns raised by some policymakers on both sides of the aisle.

These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors. They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent....What’s more, the fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale.
— Sir Tim Berners-Lee

The solution: Berners-Lee acknowledges that the companies are trying to address the problems. But he points out that fixing them falls on companies that were built to maximize profit, not social good. "A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions," he wrote. "Today’s powerful digital economy calls for strong standards that balance the interests of both companies and online citizens."

Go deeper: Read Berners-Lee's full open letter here.

Go deeper

China deems all cryptocurrency transactions illegal

A person walking past China's central bank in Beijing in August 2007. Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

China's central bank declared on Friday that all cryptocurrencies are illegal, banning crypto-related transactions and cryptocurrency mining, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: China's government is now following through with its goal of cracking down on unofficial virtual currencies, which it has said are a financial, social and national security risk and a contributor to global warming.

Biden's big bet backfires

Two key dealmakers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — leave a luncheon in the Capitol yesterday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/L.A. Times via Getty Images

President Biden bit off too much, too fast in trying to ram through what would be the largest social expansion in American history, top Democrats privately say.

Why it matters: At the time Biden proposed it, he had his mind set on a transformational accomplishment that would put him in the pantheon of FDR and JFK.

Biden sinks in swing districts

Photo: Biden speaks about wild fires and climate change in Sacramento on September 13, 2021. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/ AFP via Getty Images

Sudden doubts about President Biden's competence — on Afghanistan, immigration and COVID — are driving double-digit drops in his approval in private polling in swing House seats, The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter writes.

Why it matters: "[T]hese early mistakes go directly to the very rationale of his presidency; that it would be low drama and high competence."

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