A Brief History: World Wide Web

On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal called “Information Management: A Proposal” to his boss about a revolutionary system. This later would be known as the World Wide Web. Tim was inspired by the inefficiencies he saw in his workplace, a physics lab in Switzerland. In those days, different computers had different information, so trying to figure out how things worked was difficult.

Proposal

By October 1990, Tim had written three fundamental languages that to this day remain the foundation of the web we all know and love.

  • HTML: HyperText Markup Language. The markup (formatting) language for the web.
  • URI: Uniform Resource Identifier. A kind of “address” that is unique and used to identify to each resource on the web. It is also commonly called a URL.
  • HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Allows for the retrieval of linked resources from across the web.

As the web took off and continued to grow, Tim saw true potential in allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to use it without having to pay a fee or request permission. In April 1993, Tim and others advocated to make the underlying code royalty-free, forever. This sparked a global wave of creativity, collaboration, and innovation that until that point had never been seen before.

The early web community produced some revolutionary ideas that are now spreading far beyond the technology sector:

  • Decentralization: No permission is needed from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”! This also implies freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
  • Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or a greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is also known as Net Neutrality.
  • Bottom-up design: Instead of code being written and controlled by a small group of experts, it was developed in full view of everyone, encouraging maximum participation and experimentation.
  • Universality: For anyone to be able to publish anything on the web, all the computers involved have to speak the same languages to each other, no matter what different hardware people are using; where they live; or what cultural and political beliefs they have. In this way, the web breaks down silos while still allowing diversity to flourish.
  • Consensus: For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. Tim and others achieved this consensus by giving everyone a say in creating the standards, through a transparent, participatory process at W3C.

In 2009, Tim established the World Wide Web Foundation. The Web Foundation is advancing the Open Web as a means to build a just and thriving society by connecting everyone, raising voices and enhancing participation.

Today, there are over 2 billion websites.

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