He continues: “I think a lot of great software has been written by people who are scratching a short-term itch, something which has been niggling them for ages, but in the back of their mind they’ve got a wonderful long-term plan.”
But is there enough big academic innovation going on, I ask, or do Silicon Valley wannabes now just dream of an Instagram-style fast $1bn from creating applications that make digital snaps look like their parents’ Polaroids and selling them to Facebook?
“I’m biased to think that there hasn’t been enough. I would have liked to have seen more development around open data,” he replies. Berners-Lee, who has spent years working on the “semantic web” of machine-processable data, is a director of the UK government’s new Open Data Institute, which aims to make more official data available and to train people how to use it to commercial and other ends.