Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton who invented the World Wide Web a decade ago, said yesterday that the Web should be free to develop without government interference.

As the Web continues to evolve and impact on society, governments could lead by example with enlightened-privacy policies, Berners-Lee said during his keynote speech at the GovTech 2000 conference in Washington, DC.

Standard formats He said: "The Web is universal space. Anything should be able to be on it - it should not constrain society." However, Berners-Lee also said it is important to develop standard formats for the Web to help current and future users. As the founder of the World Wide Web Consortium, he is involved in developing uniform practices, such as addresses and language, that can translate across time and technology.

Berners-Lee said: "A lot of information on a Web site will be there longer than expected. Think of how long paper documents are around."

He added that this means that some state-of-the-art practices now, may become obsolete with no record of how they work. Unless there are common threads, people in the future may lament the fact that a "standard format" wasn’t used.

He predicts that the second Internet revolution will include a "semantic web" where information can actually be processed. He said: "Guess what - a computer is going to be able to help us for a change."