Category Archives: WSTNet News

“The Two Magics of Web Science” 10 Years On

Ten years ago this week delegates gathered in Banff, Canada, to hear Tim Berners-Lee present his keynote speech at the World Wide Web Conference. The theme of his talk was the ‘magical’ relationship between the Web’s technical protocols and social conventions – and what the interaction between them meant for newly minted field of Web Science.

The 2 magics of Web Science
Slide from ‘2 Magics’ WWW07 Keynote/ Tim Berners-Lee ©2007

Berners-Lee identified two ‘magics’ (stuff we don’t understand yet) at play in this relationship. The first is when the microscopic interaction between two people on the Web scales to produce a new macroscopic phenomenon. The second is the ‘creative magic’ required to identify new microscopic designs that could have positive macroscopic effects.

Incidentally, the keynote inspired Greg Cypes (then Tech. Lead on AOL’s Instant Messenger) to use a brand new Web app – ‘Twitter’ – to use the term ‘Web Science’ for the first time on the platform.

Greg Cypes on Twitter: Berners-Lee magic = stuff you don't understand Apparently there is a little bit of magic in Web Scien… 2017-04-26 11-02-49

No one liked or retweeted the message, but 10 years on, and several billion microscopic interactions later Web Science continues to improve our understanding of the Web’s impact on society. Members of the Web Science Trust Network carry out ground-breaking work in a wide range of areas, including: developing tools to identify robots on social media, exploring the potential of open data to transform society, and making interaction with computers easier for Web users.

These and many other topics will be discussed next month when experts and researchers gather for WebSci’17,  the 9th International Web Science Conference at the Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy, New York.

Shenzhen Web Science Summer School 2017

Shenzhen Web Science Summer School 2017
The Shenzhen Web Science Summer School was held between 20 and 24 March at the Tsinghua-Southampton Web Science Laboratory, Shenzhen, China. PhD students from Tsinghua, and the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton, UK, worked together on two Data Challenges in a competitive datathon. The aim was to learn and put into practice new data analytic skills which students’ could apply to their own research. From this collaborative work, innovative visualisations and code were created and shared on the Web Observatory.

The students were split into two groups, and provided with 20 million text files from Chinese newspapers and 5 million text files from UK newspapers. Each group chose a Data Challenge to work on.  Group 1 tackled the Disaster Management Challenge and Group 2 worked on the Shared Bicycle Scheme Challenge.

As well as the data they were provided with, both groups needed to search for and explore any additional, relevant data that could help them give further context to their investigations. This proved difficult, as Web sources that are widely used by UK-based students were not available in China (no Google!!). This, along with some cross-cultural and language misunderstandings, added to the challenge. However, hurdles were overcome and the teams worked together to produce insightful analyses.

Group 1: Disaster Management

Group 1 - Tsinghua Summer School
Group 1

Tsinghua University: Wang Chen, Jinxin Han, Xin He, GengBiao Shen, Kan Wu, Jing Zhang
WSI: Jo Munson and Sami Kanza
Mentor: Eugene Siow
This Challenge explored patterns of flooding in the real world and how it is reported on social media. Aided by their mentors expertise in Statistical Modelling, Behavioural Mining and Sentiment Analysis, students were helped to evaluate the propagation of online discussion on flooding. By applying  a Natural Language Processing algorithm the team developed a prototype dual-language dashboard which mapped social responses to flooding.
Outputs: Main websitePresentation Slides

Group 2: Shared bicycle schemes in China

Ofo and Mobike bicycles at Dongdan/N509FZ ©2017/cc-by-sa-4.0
Ofo and Mobike bicycles at Dongdan/N509FZ ©2017/cc-by-sa-4.0

Tsinghua University: Wei, Haimei, Jiamei, Shuo
WSI: Bart Paszcza and Chira Tochia
Mentor: Xin Wang
In recent years bicycle sharing projects have sprung up around the globe – helping to solve the ‘last mile’ problem, and enabling people to quickly and easily travel to and from major transport hubs. In the US there are more than 120 shared bicycle projects covering millions of miles every month, while in China shared bicycle projects, Mobike, and Ofo  are also attracted a great deal of interest. For the datathon the team developed a number of data visualisations showing use of bike sharing schemes in Shenzhen.
Outputs: HeatmapClustermapBike journeysPresentation Slides

Group one's Flood visualisation
Group one’s Flood visualisation

And the winners were…group one! A very well deserved win for such beautiful and useful visualisations for mapping floods in both Chinese and English.

Call for WWSSS 2018

On the beach at WWSSS 2016/ Steffen Staab ©2016
On the beach at WWSSS16/ Steffen Staab ©2016

The Steering Committee of the WSTNet Web Science Summer School (WWSSS) invites interested parties from commercial, academic or public domain to submit bids to host WWSSS in 2018. The call consists of two stages: first an expression of interest and second a full proposal.

Important dates

  • 15 June 2017: Deadline for expressions of interest
  • 15 July 2017: Notification and call for full proposals
  • 30 September 2017: Deadline for full proposals
  • 31 October 2017: Notification of acceptance Support and further information

For more details see visit the WWSSS18 Call page.

World Wide Web Conference 2017

Dame Wendy Hall announcing The Web Conference 2018
Professor Dame Wendy Hall announces The Web Conference 2018/TheWebConf ©2016

The 26th IW3C2 World Wide Web Conference concluded in Perth, Australia today, after 5 full days of presentations, workshops, demos, and in-depth debate on the current and possible future of the Web. There were keynotes from radio astronomer Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, Yoelle Maarek, Vice President of Research at Yahoo, and pioneer of 3D on the web, Mark Pesce.

In addition to chairing the Web Observatory Workshop, our Managing Director, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, presented the 2017 Seoul Test of Time Award to the authors of the 2000 paper “Graph Structure in the Web”.  Closing the conference Dame Wendy  announced the re-branding of the conference as ‘The Web Conference’ – the first to be held in Lyon, France between 23 and 27 April, 2018. To take advantage of early-bird registration, visit:

WST Co-Founder Receives ACM A.M. Turing Award

Inventor of World Wide Web and Web Science Trust co-founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been awarded the ACM A.M. Turing Award.

Timbls message @WebSci10
Timbls message @WebSci10/©2016 WST

As Web researchers gather at the annual World Wide Web Conference in Perth, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has named Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award. Berners-Lee, a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Honorary Professor at the University of Southampton, was cited for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale.

In 1989 Berners-Lee proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the World Wide Web. Based on the earlier “Enquire” work, it was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents. He wrote the first World Wide Web server, “httpd“, and the first client, “WorldWideWeb” a what-you-see-is-what-you-get hypertext browser/editor which ran in the NeXTStep environment. This work was started in October 1990, the program “WorldWideWeb” first made available within CERN in December, and on the Internet at large on 6 August 1991 – when the world’s first website, was launched.

In 2004, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work. Named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, Berners-Lee was honoured as the “Inventor of the World Wide Web” during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, in which he appeared in person, working with a vintage NeXT Computer at the London Olympic Stadium. He tweeted “This is for everyone”, which was spelled out in  lights around the stadium.

Central to the universal adoption of the World Wide Web was Berners-Lee’s decision to develop it as open and royalty-free software. Berners-Lee released his libwww software package in the early 1990s, granting the rights to anyone to study, change, or distribute the software in any way they chose. He has continued to guide the project and work with developers around the world to develop web-server code. The popularity of the open source software led to the evolution of early web browsers that are credited with propagating the Web beyond academic and government research settings and making it a global phenomenon.

With the founding of the Web Science Research Initiative (later Web Science Trust) in 2006, Berners-Lee was instrumental in the establishment of Web Science as a multi-disciplinary academic field, and the institution of the annual International ACM Web Science Conference. To mark the 10th anniversary of Web Science he sent a message to via our TV Channel, focussing on the importance and urgency of the research in the field.

The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing. The award will be presented the ACM Awards Banquet on June 24 in San Francisco, California.