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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Then, Now, Tomorrow: What’s next for the World Wide Web? – the first City Talk of 2013 presented by the City of Sydney in partnership with UTSpotlight. What made this event so extraordinarily special is the fact that it featured Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Now, if you don’t know who Sir Tim is, let me quote MC Adam Spencer’s succinct introduction:

“Our next guest invented the web”

The word on the street – right next to the Tsuru Food Truck where I downed a six dollar braised pork belly steamed bun – was that tickets sold out in under two hours. This word was heard by me at the back of a line that spanned the length of an entire Sydney city block. And when I did get in, Sydney Town Hall’s Centennial Hall was packed to the rafters.

I was lucky. I had me a VIP ticket! Like an understudy to the Yellow Wiggle, I scored this opportunity from the real VIP – my boss, Phil Morle – who is thankfully overseas right now. So a front row pew and an invitation to a boozy reception in a room of suited power brokers, the Lord Mayor and the inventor of the web, was mine.

Now I’ll excuse you for not relating to this, but I’m the kind of person who feels a slight discomfort when hearing alt referred to as a tag, so seeing Sir Tim in the flesh is as close to a religious experience as I can imagine – second only to witnessing the birth of my first child. Think your local bearded hipster barista witnessing Jobs announce the latest iPaidThroughTheNose, or Ballmer chanting “developers” ad nauseam, and you’ll get what I mean. Geek heaven. Speaking in tongues.

Unexpectedly, Sir Tim presents as an ADHD child genius – excited, nervous, scattered, unfocused – but all the while articulate, intelligent, interesting and entertaining. His short self-told story painted him as an agitated agitator of governments and a liberator of closed data and systems.

Following his condensed life story, Sir Tim was joined on stage for a discussion with a panel of Australian innovators. What made this a disappointing experience was that it appeared the panel had pre-prepared their answers to the questions they were given by Spencer. Their speeches were immediate – without pause or consideration, and they deviated from the original questions in ways that led into advertorial for their respective causes – whether this be the plight of thirsty third-worlders or the similarly hostile conditions faced by female entrepreneurs in Sydney.

To cap the discussion, Sir Tim was asked about the future – what is actually next for the World Wide Web? He responded by demanding that predicting the future is “a mugs game” and that asking “what do I want” is far more useful. And when asked of his biggest regret, his answer; leaving in the “//”.

So what do you want?

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