Abstract: Dot-Org Entrepreneurship: Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium

Andrew L. Russell


After inventing the World Wide Web ("Web") in the early 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee was recognized with a MacArthur "genius grant" in 1998 and, in 2003, promotion to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. These were not common rewards for entrepreneurs in the so-called dot-com era. One might expect that Sir Berners-Lee, like other successful Internet entrepreneurs, earned tremendous riches from starting a business based on this seminal invention for the Third Industrial Revolution. Instead, he promoted the Web by creating an institution to coordinate the technical standards upon which the Web would thrive. His role in the creation and growth of this institution, the World Wide Web Consortium ("W3C"), provides a striking departure from other forms of entrepreneurship in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This paper, based on an analysis of Berners-Lee's role in the creation and development of the Web, argues that the W3C was a vital coordination mechanism that sustained the technological infrastructure of the Third Industrial Revolution. Accordingly, it needs to be understood as a significant entrepreneurial community—albeit one not centered on the pursuit of profit and market dominance.