Learn on the Open Web

The World Wide Web forms a big part of everyday life as well as work and study. It’s where we share knowledge, form opinions and engage with journalism, politics, education, culture and science.

By learning on the Open Web we can learn how the web works, how to communicate and collaborate with others, how to protect our individual privacy as well as the privacy of others, and how to make the most of the Web in the context of both professional activities and everyday life. We can also learn the value of keeping the World Wide Web open and the cost (social, economic, democratic) to ourselves and people around the world if this openness is not upheld.

What is the Open Web?

The phrase ‘Open Web‘ can be traced back to the original vision behind the creation of the World Wide Web (WWW), imagined by its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee as “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

The Open Web can refer to both technical and social ideas of openness, including:

  • Open technical standards (opposed to proprietary formats) which allow anyone to make use of a technology to study, change and distribute to anyone for any purpose.
  • Device independence to make sure formats are able to work well on a variety of devices regardless of what kind of laptop or phone someone is using.
  • Open content which allows anyone to access and make use of information and culture to study, change and distribute to anyone for any purpose.
  • Accessibility and making sure websites work out of the box for everyone regardless of any audio and visual impairments or differing abilities.
  • Net neutrality which means that internet providers should treat all internet communications equally and not discriminate or charge users differently based on the kind of device they use or the content they wish to access on the internet.
  • Open collaboration allowing anyone anywhere to work together to create new projects, cultures and movements.
  • Democracy, egalitarianism, civil rights, international cooperation, freedom of expression, and many other ideas of openness…

There is no one definition of what the Open Web is but it is generally understood as a Web by and for all its users, and that the Web should not be controlled by gatekeepers or governments.

This means that the idea of an Open Web is critical of the role of companies that hold a monopoly through proprietary technologies or controversial business or surveillance practices.

Those interested in the Open Web may look to use technologies and services that are not owned by corporate monopolies or find ways to share knowledge and culture openly with others across the Web. This can include social platforms, marketplaces, collaboration tools, peer-produced knowledge, and file formats that work across different computers and software.

Why learn on the Open Web?

Educators can make use of the Open Web in their teaching to support students to use technologies that do not compromise their privacy or intellectual property rights. This is whilst teaching authentic communication practices and digital skills that are invaluable beyond educational environments.

Students can build understanding of how to balance the opportunities that free online services may provide with how they want to trade their personal information or intellectual property to use these services.  They can build understanding of how to engage effectively and ethically with the current social and technical ecosystem and the role of the Open Web.