One could say that if it wasn’t for Mike Sendall saying Yes to Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee then you MAY never have got to read this on MyPE. So, for that reason we salute these two men.
On, 12 November, the day that the successful proposal to establish the World Wide Web was presented is a salutary lesson for academics and entrepreneurs from the inventor of the World Wide Web HyperText Protocol – Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee.
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!
Clarification: The internet was already a ‘thing’ shared by academics and governments in 1989 – it was Berners-Lee who ‘facebooked’ the internet into what we know as the World Wide Web.
In 1984, Berners-Lee returned to CERN as a fellow. It was whilst at CERN that Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the internet and explains his ‘aha’ moment thus:
“I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and—ta-da!—the World Wide Web… Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN later. Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already. I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.”
CERN was the largest internet node in Europe serving academics the world over who wished to share information.
Did you get that ‘Facebookers’? Information – not the state of ones bowels, cat pictures or other such stuff!
As a good social entrepreneur Berners-Lee set out to solve a problem that would make it easier and quicker for fellow academics to access information quicker and easier. The state of the internet at that time was tahat there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Compounding the slow connection speeds was an additional hurdle that sometimes forced academics to learn a different program on each computer.
Due to the slow connection speeds most information available was only in TEXT, hence the HyperText Protocol linked to a browser which could interpret and present information in a readable format on a computer or dumb terminal.
In March 1989 the first project proposal was written and circulated for comment.
This was followed up in October 1990 when the project proposal was reformulated with encouragement from CN and ECP divisional management.
It was 28 years ago today on 12 November 1990 that the successful proposal for a HyperText Project was presented which was accepted by his manager, Mike Sendall, who called his proposals ‘vague, but exciting’.
The very first browser and initial WorldWideWeb prototype was developed on the NeXT computer using the NeXTSTEP Operating System. This will make fans of Apple very happy – as NeXT was an American computer and software company founded in 1985 by Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs who had resigned from Apple on 13 September 1985.
Bernes-Lee estimated that his project would take 6 months to complete with a staff complement of 4 Software Engineers and a programmer.
His estimates were not far wrong as the very first publicly accessible web page was published on 6 August 1991. Fittingly, the site was about the World Wide Web project, describing the Web and how to use it. Hosted at CERN on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, the site’s URL was http://info.cern.ch.
In birthing the WWW that connects the world to each other, Berners-Lee developed the key technologies that are the bedrock of the Web, including Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), for creating Web pages; Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), a set of rules for transferring data across the Web; and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), or Web addresses for finding a document or page.
From that one fateful day in August 1991 we now, as at June 2018, have 4 208 571 287 of the 7 634 758 428 of the world’s population using the World Wide Web.
Berners-Lee wanted the Web to be open and free so it could expand and evolve as rapidly as possible. As he later said, “Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”
Imagine if Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee had decided to rather patent and commercialise his idea – would the world be a poorer place?
- The first web page in the world: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html
- Timeline of the Project: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/History.html
- The 12 November 1990 Proposal for a HyperText Project: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/Proposal.html
- The people involved in the WorldWideWeb Project: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/People.html