Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Certifying the Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is worried that his brainchild is harbouring a lot of rubbish. Apparently, he would like the new Foundation he has set up to offer certificates to websites with reliable content so that browsers will know how much credence to give what they read. David Aaronovitch of the Times, for one, thinks this is a good idea.

Presumably, this paragon of climate change silliness from a leading Liberal Democrat MP would get a big tick from any Foundation of concerned scientists. But actually, perhaps Sir Tim should give Pope Benedict XVI a ring. You see, the Catholic Church have used just such a certification system since the sixteenth century. If you want the official Catholic stamp of approval on your book you can apply for your local bishop for an imprimatur. That’s Latin for ‘Let it be Printed’ (in a construction called the Jussive Subjective, as you really ought to know). If you are an employee of the Catholic Church (that is, a priest or nun), you still need to get an imprimatur even to this day if you want to release something controversial.

Clearly this is the way to go. I, for one, look forward to the day when Sir Tim’s new Foundation awards the first deoneratur – ‘let it be downloaded’.

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