Nov 15, 2022 • 6M

World Wide Web: The Invention That Connected Humans

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The Scando Review
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Comments is the web address on which you are currently reading or listening to this article. Every site on the internet that we visit has the prefix "www." As most know, it denotes the World Wide Web, an innovation that changed the world. From being rejected as a concept stamped as a "vague idea" to becoming an unparalleled invention, the world wide web has a remarkable history. So today, let's delve into the history behind this life-changing twentieth-century innovation.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, born in London to computer scientist parents who worked on one of the earliest computers, was naturally prone to computers from a very young age. After graduating in 1976 from Oxford University, Berners-Lee started his career as a software developer at Plessey Telecommunications Ltd. Berners-Lee worked in several positions in the computer industry before entering CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, in 1980.

Scientists worldwide visited CERN, but Tim noted they were having difficulty sharing information as the systems were not interconnected. By then, research institutes such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University had established intricate systems for internally sharing information. So, Berners-Lee sought a way to connect CERN's systems to others. It was a time of fast-growing internet connectivity, and millions of computers were already connected to the internet system.

In 1989, Berners-Lee outlined the plan for a network to connect the computers and began working on it. His purpose was to enable researchers to communicate their findings, ideas, and practises without constantly exchanging e-mails. He prepared a document, "Information Management: A Proposal," explaining his vision that would later become the most valuable invention of the twentieth century. But, like most innovative thoughts, Berners-Lee's proposal was not initially welcomed. His boss Mike Sendell remarked the concept as "Vague but exciting." Even though Tim's web was never an official project of CERN, Sendell gave him time to work on it. Berners-Lee began the practical works for the web on the NeXT computer, one of Steve Jobs' early products, in 1990. Later the computer became part of history as the world's first internet server.

Berners-Lee moved from CERN to MIT in 1994 to form the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international organisation dedicated to promoting open web standards.

Berners-Lee wrote the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today's web: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), URI (Uniform Resource Identifier), and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). By the end of 1990, he published the first web page, a simplistic outline of the World Wide Web project. By 1991 people outside CERN were able to access the new web community.

On realising the true potential of his invention, Berners-Lee opened up the web to the general public in 1993. He released the source code for the project to the public domain, royalty-free, making the new-born technology free and easily accessible to anyone around the world. Within a few years of its release, the invention dramatically revolutionised human communication and information sharing. It steered human history to its next phase.

Berners-Lee moved from CERN to MIT in 1994 to form the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international organisation dedicated to promoting open web standards. He is still the Director of the W3C. In addition, Berners-Lee co-founded the World Wide Web Foundation with Rosemary Leith in 2009. The Web Foundation advocates for the web we want: one that is secure, empowering, and accessible to all.

Queen Elizabeth II awarded Tim Berners-Lee a knighthood in 2004. He also won the inaugural Millennium Technology Prize of 1 million euros from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering's Charles Stark Draper Prize in 2007. Berners-Lee is also one of Time Magazine's ‘100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.'

Today the web has become one of the essential parts of human existence. Studies show that, on average, two out of five people use the web 24 hours a week. We can now access any desired information from any part of the world. Moreover, with the coming of handy gadgets like smartphones, information and data have literally come down to our fingertips. It has led to the exponential growth of data, enabled the spread of knowledge and ideas, and even triggered social movements. Next time on visiting a website, let's thank Sir Tim Berners-Lee for his phenomenal invention.

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