Tim Berners-Lee finally makes his million

I was sitting one winter evening a few years ago in the parlour of Bob Metcalfe's townhouse on Boston's Back Bay with a plate of chicken and salad perched on my lap when Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, sat down next to me, a plate also perched on his knees.
We were both there as guests of a party held to promote a conference that Metcalfe was involved with as the keynoter and promoter.
Soon, the discussion Berners-Lee (pictured, left) and I had turned to the issue of getting rich from a technology invention. Metcalfe, after all, had paid for his multi-million-dollar townhouse, a beautiful farm on the coast in Maine, and other doo-dads because he invented Ethernet and then went on to found 3Com. But, as Metcalfe himself is fond of saying, he didn't get rich inventing Ethernet, he got rich working his butt off taking overnight trains to every small town in America trying to sell Ethernet.
Berners-Lee came at things from quite the oppositive view. He was a creator, a thinker, interested in toying with ideas rather than patenting them. In fact, he quite specifically declined to patent the Web after creating it while at CERN in Switzerland.
He feels strongly about those who claim intellectual rights too strongly; that such assertions can hurt a technology's adoption, particularly when it's something new like the Web was.
So Berners-Lee missed out on the fabulous wealth enjoyed by others, like Metcalfe, but he still makes a decent living. (I think most recently he held a chair at M.I.T. that Metcalfe endowed).
So it was great news to hear this week that the Finnish Technology Award Foundation gave Berners-Lee this week its Millennium Technology Prize, which comes with a cash award worth 1 million euros. Congratulations, Tim!

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