Today is the 25th birthday of the world wide web.
It was on this day in 1989 when British engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal while at CERN for what would eventually become the web.
He wrote: “In providing a system for manipulating this sort of information, the hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organisation and the projects it describes. For this to be possible, the method of storage must not place its own restraints on the information. This is why a ‘web’ of notes with links (like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system.”
To celebrate the web’s anniversary here are 10 facts from www.webat25.org
1. Before settling on ‘the web’ Berners-Lee (below) thought of the names ‘Information Mesh’, ‘The Information Mine’, and ‘Mine of Information’.
2. Mike Sendall, Berners-Lee’s manager at the time, commented on the original proposal: “Vague, but exciting.” Fortunately, Sendall thought enough of the proposal to allow Berners-Lee to work on it on the side.
3. In 1990, Berners-Lee wrote the first browser and editor, called WorldWideWeb.app’, which ran on a NeXT computer. Steve Jobs had left Apple to create NeXT Inc., and later returned to Apple.
4. The first website was info.cern.ch, hosted by CERN, on Berners-Lee’s desktop computer.
5. The web is not the same thing as the internet. The internet protocols describe how to send packets of information between pieces of software. The first internet protocols were defined in 1969. Since then many applications have used them in different ways, including email, FTP and the web. The web is any information that is identified with a URL (Universal Resource Locator). That makes the URL the most fundamental piece of web technology.
6. The double slash ‘//’ in URLs was an idea Berners-Lee copied from the Apollo workstation’s ‘domain’ file system. Microsoft later adopted double backslash under the same influence.
7. Although many website addresses start with ‘www’ there is no requirement they begin this way. It was just an early convention to help people recognise that someone was running a web server.
8. On April 30, 1993, CERN put WorldWideWeb in the public domain, a critical milestone in enabling broad adoption of the web.
9. Today it is estimated just under 40 per cent of the world’s population has internet access.
10. Estimates of the number of web pages vary greatly, but it is likely to be in the tens of billions. It is also estimated the number of websites will reach one billion by the end of 2014.
Based on your own experiences, has the world wide web enriched and improved your life? Or have you seen ways in which the web has made the world a worse place? Is the web a force for good or evil? How can and should it be policed in the future to protect vulnerable people and safeguard principles such as privacy? Add your comments below.