Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee has been awarded the world's largest technology prize.

The Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation is worth 1 million euros. Berners-Lee has been awarded the prize for the commitment he showed in his work to ensure that the hypertext backbone of the Web remained licence-free.

If the European Particle Physics Lab (CERN) had insisted on collecting royalties, Berners-Lee told The New York Times he thought the world would have 16 different Webs.

"Goodness knows, there were plenty of hypertext systems before that didn't interoperate," he said.

"There would have been a CERN Web, a Microsoft one, there would have been a Digital one, Apple's HyperCard would have started reaching out Internet roots," he said. "And all of these things would have been incompatible."

He condemns the patent-greed afflicting technology development today, saying this "threatens the whole spirit in which software has been developed to date."