Mon, May 22, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Webmasters reveal a digital future

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Babies assigned a personal Web site at birth; companies that store your "digital assets" like a bank; search engines which find your perfect holiday with undreamt-of precision. These are some of the concepts on the agenda at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference.

From tomorrow, 1,200 delegates from 46 countries will be at the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh.

The gathering of the world's foremost Webmasters will be headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a Briton, who is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium and widely recognized as the father of the Web.

He will take the conference platform along with speakers whose diversity illustrates the all-embracing tentacles of his invention, including representatives of Amazon, the UK Film Council, Reuters, Yahoo, Nokia, Microsoft, Boeing, IBM and Walt Disney.

There will be sessions on creating a successful Web-based business, as entrepreneurs seek to exploit "the second dotcom boom" and hit on a big idea that will make them rich after the fashion of Google.

According to Berners-Lee's colleague at Southampton University, Wendy Hall, the executive director of the conference, the "next Google" will be the first business to seize opportunities offered by rapidly developing technology.

"I have a vision that in the future when a baby is born you'll get some sort of internet ID that is effectively your digital persona, and it will grow with you," Hall said.

"It will actually represent you in some way -- what you know, what you've done, your experiences. I guess you'd call it your URI [Uniform Resource Identity]," she said.

"This is the thing that always identifies you. Every time you do something on the Internet, it is effectively logged, building up this profile that is with you for your life. Then you have your life's record, which can include any legal documents or photographs or videos that you might have, that you can pass on to your children," Hall said.

Already anyone who goes online is adding to a "digital footprint" and will have to manage it increasingly carefully, Hall believes.

"People are beginning to become aware of how easy it is to have their identities stolen. You need to understand what information about yourself you are leaving digitally around the world," she said.

"I think of it like a bank. Our digital assets are as valuable to us as financial assets: they are going to be what defines us in the future. There are businesses that will grow up that will help you manage your digital identity," Hall said.

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