The new old science of the inter-web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Image copyright AP
Image caption Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web

Michael Gove is changing the way England's schools teach IT.

His answer is coding. It's rigorous. Testable. Difficult.

Coding is the opposite to those IT lessons that are no more than a course in how to use a spreadsheet or a word processor.

Teaching coding will encourage the development of desperately needed programmers, it is argued.

But is it really the future?

The University of Southampton has a bigger vision.

It's new web science department will work at the cutting edge of both the technology and the way that we use it.

Because the implications of the connections we are making are much more than just the speeding up of the data flow.

Southampton professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the man who invented the world wide web with the thought "this is for everyone".

He says new technologies like Facebook and Twitter are leading to a new centralisation that ought to be challenged.

He calls the process re-decentralising the web.

"It would be foolish to say the web is a communal thing - net neutrality is about keeping a commercial system separate from the next market up."

His new idea is personal data stores.

The example he uses is medical data. In a personal data store an individual could maintain individual privacy while allowing a researcher to compare anonymised statistics and find vital clues to fighting disease.

How to make it work will be studied by a truly multi-disciplinary team.

Sociologist Susan Halford points to the sophisticated politics that will be needed to keep big data open and transparent.

The government's chief technology officer Liam Maxwell will be a visiting professor. He argues that the only way to make the web sustainable is to design around the user, not our current structures of organisation, because they will not last.

He says Britain is complacent. Developing countries won't be troubled by arguments over open source.

Berners-Lee asks what are the tools we need to code to find the sweet spot between giving anonymity and taking it away?

He points to one big question - what is the web we want?

Answering that will take more than coding, or spreadsheets.