25 years ago, in 1989, the World Wide Web was just an idea in a technical paper from a young computer scientist at a European physics lab.
The scientist is Tim Berners-Lee, who worked out at the CERN lab in Switzerland. His work which aimed to outline a way to easily access files on linked computers, paved the way for a global phenomenon that has touched the lives of billions of people.
He presented the paper on March 12, 1989, which history has marked as the birthday of the Web.
Marc Weber, creator and curator of the Internet history program at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the idea was so bold, it almost didn’t happen.
“There was a tremendous amount of hubris in the project at the beginning, Tim Berners-Lee proposed it out of the blue, unrequested.”
The US military began studying the idea of connected computer networks in the 1950s, and in 1969 launched Arpanet, the forerunner to the Internet. But the World Wide Web was just one of several ideas to connect the public. Berners-Lee convinced CERN to adopt his system, demonstrating its usefulness by compiling a lab phone book into an online index.
Sir Tim wrote the first world wide web server, “httpd”, and the first client “WorldWideWeb”, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get hypertext browser/editor.
It launched publicly just two-and-a-half years later, on August 6 1991.
In 2009 Sir Tim founded the World Wide Web Foundation which has a mission statement to “establish the open web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely”.
Fast forward to today, the World Wide Web is used to connect everyone around the world. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and WhatsApp has become synonymous with our lives that most of us have forgotten what life felt like when we were disconnected.
The Internet and the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is not the same as the Internet. The Internet is the global network of networks, all speaking the lingua franca protocol of TCP/IP. No one thing represents the Internet. Email, browsers, the World Wide Web, apps, torrents are all on the Internet. The World Wide Web on the other hand, is just one application among many to use the Internet. It is probably something we are most familiar with as it is the thing inside our browser window. Every webpage that you can view through a web browser is on the World Wide Web.
To show how far the World Wide Web has come, here are some screenshots of early web products, some close to their inception, some a couple years later.
Image Credit: Andrew Chen
Also read: Sick of slow Internet speed? Come to Asia!
Featured image credit: Vice