Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, just won the ACM Turing Award and the $US1 million ($1.3 million) purse that comes with it. The sum seems menial for such a world-changing contribution, but seriously, Sir Tim will be fine.
The Turing Award is also known as the “Nobel Prize for Computing” and, accordingly, it’s a huge honour. Is it an even bigger honour than winning the Albert Medal, a 150-year-old accolade which Berners-Lee received in 2002, putting him in the same company as folks like Louis Pasteur and Alexander Graham Bell? Hard to say. Is the Turing Award more extraordinary than being promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, which is how Tim became known as Sir Tim? Don’t know. Is this new commendation more incredible than winning the Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement? Actually, yes. The Turing Prize is most definitely better than a Webby.
Now that Berners-Lee, a professor at MIT and Oxford, has won the Turing Award, he’s arguably the most famous laureate in the prize’s 51-year history. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, “the fathers of the internet”, would probably be a close second. So even though a million dollar prize — as prestigious as it certainly is — seems like a paltry reward for inventing the World Wide freaking Web, one can’t help but wonder why Berners-Lee didn’t win the award sooner.
Who knows, honestly. It’s not like Sir Tim needs more prizes. After all, he has a whole Wikipedia page devoted to his awards and honours. And it’s pretty long, too! It’s also unclear what Berners-Lee will do with the money, although we can rest assured that he’s probably not going to move to an island in the South Pacific and rest on his laurels. The 61-year-old professor hasn’t stopped working, since he launched the world’s first web page on 6 August 1991.
Sir Tim also seems more concerned than ever with what we’re doing to his invention. Upon his Turing Award announcement, Berners-Lee spoke to The Guardian about some of the more troubling developments in internet news. Unsurprisingly, the agenda being pushed by Trump and the GOP was on the top of his list of things to worry about.
“Privacy, a core American value, is not a partisan thing. Democrats fight for it and Republicans fight for it, too, maybe even more,” Berners-Lee said with regard to the recent repeal of online privacy rules in the United States. “So I am very shocked that the Republican party has managed to suggest that it should be trashed; if anyone follows up on this direction there will be a massive pushback — and there must be a massive pushback!”
We should listen to Sir Tim. He knows what he’s talking about, and he has a laundry list of awards to prove it. On that note, congratulations, Sir Tim. You sure as hell earned it.