The Man Who Invented the World Wide Web
Unlike Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee can actually say with a dose of truth that he invented the Internet.
Okay, it wasn’t really him, either, but the English physicist did have everything to do with bringing the Internet to the masses , by creating what he would whimsically coin the “World Wide Web” in 1990.
Creeping quietly onto the scene at Berners-Lee’s home base of CERN — the European research institute on the border between France and Switzerland — the World Wide Web would soon cast its net across the globe, ultimately changing the way people communicate, learn and interact.
The ARPANET lays the groundwork
Although the “Internet” was born almost 20 years before Tim Berners-Lee and his World Wide Web came along, it had remained a relatively isolated technology shared by a pocket of scientists at the U.S. Department of Defense and scattered national universities and laboratories.
The goal of the file-share system , which its creators called the ARPANET, was to link up the country’s few powerful research computers, a very real concern at the height of the Cold War when those in-the-know needed to share information quickly and efficiently.
They had also constructed a technological backbone for Tim Berners-Lee.
“Vague but exciting” were the words a CERN supervisor scribbled on the Berners-Lee proposal that would ultimately become the World Wide Web. The proposal is posted on CERN's website in its entirety, including a scan of the original, fateful comment on the cover.
An understatement, perhaps, but it was enough of a green light to allow Berners-Lee to continue his research that March of 1989.
At the time, Berners-Lee was working on physics research at the renowned, and enormous, CERN facility. Concerned with important information being lost through the cracks, Berners-Lee sought a way to share and reference work stored across the institute’s many sites and computers, he wrote in his proposal.
After another year of work, the answer Berners-Lee came up with linked hypertext with a common browser interface, allowing users to access, view and contribute to anything stored at the laboratory in an easy, click-and-navigate method. In the unassuming and typically nonchalant fashion the innovator is known for, Berners-Lee likened the idea in his proposal to a computer game adventure.
Berners-Lee’s innovation made it appear as though all of these little bits of information were sitting neatly in a box in front of you, when they were in fact spread across the world .
From a list of names that included the decidedly less catchy “The Information Mesh,” describes CERN ,Berners-Lee chose the World Wide Web to describe his interface, which was set up on a handful of CERN operating systems. Amazingly, there is no screenshot of this first web page address, which changed every day, and contained information describing the project itself.
Giving access to the world At the start, the first person to ever “surf” the web was Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee’s collaborator and colleague, according to CERN's website, but that exclusivity wouldn’t last long. By 1991, the Berners-Lee team had developed and begun distributing browser and server software that did not require computer sophistication on par with the high-tech machines at CERN. The first server outside of Europe was installed at the National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University in California, and by the end of 1993 there were more than 500 known servers connected to the Web worldwide, according to CERN's look back at the historic birth of the Web.
The following year, Berners-Lee left CERN to start the World Wide Web Consortium to promote net neutrality and accessibility.
There were 4.2 billion pages on the Web for browsers to choose from by May 2010, according to statistics compiled by Google.