20 years ago today, the World Wide Web opened to the public
The Next Web
By Martin Bryant
August 8, 2011
Today is a significant day in the history of the Internet. On 6 August 1991, exactly twenty years ago, the World Wide Web became publicly available. Its creator, the now internationally known Tim Berners-Lee, posted a short summary of the project on thealt.hypertext newsgroup and gave birth to a new technology which would fundamentally change the world as we knew it.
The World Wide Web has its foundation in work that Berners-Lee did in the 1980s at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. He had been looking for a way for physicists to share information around the world without all using the same types of hardware and software. This culminated in his 1989 paper proposing ‘A large hypertext database with typed links’.
While the initial proposal failed to gain much momentum within CERN, it was later expanded into a more concrete document proposing a World Wide Web of documents, connected via hypertext links. World Wide Web was adopted as the project’s name following rejected possibilities such as ‘The Mine of Information’ and ‘The Information Mesh‘. The May 1990 proposal described the concept of the Web as thus:
HyperText is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. Potentially, HyperText provides a single user-interface to many large classes of stored information such as reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line systems help. We propose the implementation of a simple scheme to incorporate several different servers of machine-stored information already available at CERN, including an analysis of the requirements for information access needs by experiments.
The document envisaged the Web as being used for a variety of purposes, such as “document registration, on-line help, project documentation, news schemes and so on.” However, British Berners-Lee and his collaborator Robert Cailliau, a Belgian engineer and computer scientist, had the foresight to avoid being too specific about its potential uses.
In 1990, working on a computer built by NeXT, the firm Steve Jobs launched after being pushed out of Apple in the mid-80s, Berners-Lee developed the first Web browser software called, fittingly, WorldWideWeb. By the end of that year he had a working prototype of the Web running on a server at CERN.
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