Sir Tim Berners-Lee has launched an outspoken attack on social networking sites such as Facebook for threatening the universal and egalitarian nature of the system he helped to create.
Berners-Lee argued in an article for Science American that some large social networking sites are " walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the web", which could contribute to the internet being "broken into fragmented islands".
The article explained that social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendster typically capture user information as it is entered.
"The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service - but only within their sites," Berners-Lee said.
"Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use it on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others."
The argument is similar to that underpinning the row between Google and Facebook. Google has insisted that it will not allow Facebook access to Gmail contact information unless the flow of information goes both ways.
Berners-Lee also warned of the dangers of monopolies in the web industry, in what will be seen by many as a reference to Google and Facebook.
"A related danger is that one social networking site, or one search engine or one browser gets so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation," he said.
"As has been the case since the web began, continued grassroots innovation may be the best check and balance against any one company or government that tries to undermine universality."
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