History of the World Wide Web

Overview

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, about 20 years after the first connection was established over what is today known as the Internet. At the time, Tim was a software engineer at CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Many scientists participated in experiments at CERN for extended periods of time, then returned to their laboratories around the world. These scientists were eager to exchange data and results, but had difficulties doing so. Tim understood this need, and understood the unrealized potential of millions of computers connected together through the Internet.Today, the Web and the Internet allow connectivity from literally everywhere on earth—even ships at sea and in outer space.

The World Wide Web (“WWW” or simply the “Web”) is a global information medium which users can read and write via computers connected to the Internet. The term is often mistakenly used as a synonym for the Internet itself, but the Web is a service that operates over the Internet, just as e-mail also does. The history of the Internet dates back significantly further than that of the World Wide Web.

The concept of a home-based global information system goes at least as far back as “A Logic Named Joe”, a 1946 short story by Murray Leinster, in which computer terminals, called “logics,” were in every home. Although the computer system in the story is centralized, the story captures some of the feeling of the ubiquitous information explosion driven by the Web.

1979–1991: Development of the World Wide Web

“In August, 1984 I wrote a proposal to the SW Group Leader, Les Robertson, for the establishment of a pilot project to install and evaluate TCP/IP protocols on some key non-Unix machines at CERN … By 1990 CERN had become the largest Internet site in Europe and this fact… positively in Europe and elsewhere… A key result of all these happenings was that by 1989 CERN’s Internet facility was ready to become the medium within which Tim Berners-Lee would create the World Wide Web with a truly visionary idea…”

Ben Segal. Short History of Internet Protocols at CERN, April 1995

The NeXTcube used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first Web server.

In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Switzerland, built ENQUIRE, as a personal database of people and software models, but also as a way to play with hypertext; each new page of information in ENQUIRE had to be linked to an existing page.

In 1984 Berners-Lee returned to CERN, and considered its problems of information presentation: physicists from around the world needed to share data, and with no common machines and no common presentation software. He wrote a proposal in March 1989 for “a large hypertext database with typed links”, but it generated little interest. His boss, Mike Sendall, encouraged Berners-Lee to begin implementing his system on a newly acquired NeXT workstation.[4] He considered several names, including Information Mesh,[5] The Information Mine (turned down as it abbreviates to TIM, the WWW’s creator’s name) or Mine of Information (turned down because it abbreviates to MOI which is “Me” in French), but settled on World Wide Web.
Robert Cailliau, Jean-François Abramatic and Tim Berners-Lee at the 10th anniversary of the WWW Consortium.

He found an enthusiastic collaborator in Robert Cailliau, who rewrote the proposal (published on November 12, 1990) and sought resources within CERN. Berners-Lee and Cailliau pitched their ideas to the European Conference on Hypertext Technology in September 1990, but found no vendors who could appreciate their vision of marrying hypertext with the Internet.

Learner Outcomes

* Learn the differences between the Internet and the World Wide Web
* Learn how the Web was developed
* Who developed the World Wide Web and Why

Assignments

Review the following pages and respond to the questions above.

W3c History of the Web
Wikipedia History of the World Wide Web
Web Foundation History of the Web

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