Introduction to the World Wide Web
Before I delve deeper into the question of who invented the World Wide Web, let’s just cover up the basics.
Al Gore did not invent the World Wide Web or the Internet. That was a quote taken out of context and passed around in a comedy chain letter, which ultimately gained some larger exposure. The truth is that he was discussing some bills that he supported to help fund the early stages of Internet development before it was popular, and therefore claimed that he helped create the Internet. There’s nothing too interesting about that.
On that note, the Internet and the World Wide Web are technically different things. The Internet is the actual network that the World Wide Web uses. For example, email and FTP are two non-World Wide Web processes that use the Internet (although they’ve been fairly well integrated into the Web through webmail and better FTP interfaces). The World Wide Web refers to the large network of websites that can be viewed (hence the “www” before a website name).
With those out of the way, let’s get started.
The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee with the assistance of Robert Cailliau. Lee was working at CERN when he developed the concept for the World Wide Web. Since CERN is composed of a large network of thousands of scientists and several different affiliated labs and universities, they were looking for a new way to facilitate communication between scientists.The original idea was basically an expansion of a standard database. Profiles would be linked off a larger hub and scientists with the appropriate browser could view them easily from anywhere in the world with a connection to it.
In 1989, Lee proposed a new network for CERN using hypertext to create a linked and easily accessible series of pages (Look here for the full development of HTML). He partnered with Cailliau to build up the basic protocols. In 1991, the World Wide Web was officially born. Lee and Cailliau released the basic building blocks to research institutes and universities. This included the first basic web browser and the tools to produce other sites. This browser could be used with FTP and Usenet sites and a simplified version was released which was able to work on any operating system. This seems to have helped it gain early attention.
It was at this point that Lee and Cailliau issued a general call for help. They hoped that fresh blood from interested researchers and developers could speed up the development of the World Wide Web. This seemed to be the right call. New developers arose and new browsers were designed. The spread of accessible browsers spurred new interest in the World Wide Web. 1994 kicked off an astonishing wave of progress for the new network. By the end of the year, there would be two packed conferences to discuss the growth of the World Wide Web and 10,000 web servers online. 2,000 of these were for business purposes. This marked the watershed moment of the World Wide Web.
Shortly after this successful growth spurt, CERN would pass on control of the World Wide Web to the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Controls who formed and joined the International World Wide Web Consortium. The rest is pretty much history though. Commercial ventures continued the move to cyberspace and it became essential for strong enterprises to have an online presence. The dot-com bubble formed and burst, but the World Wide Web continued its development into the Web 2.0 period that we find ourselves in now.
- An Interview with Tim Berners-Lee - http://davidgalbraith.org/uncategorized/the-exact-location-where-the-web-was-invented/2343/
- CERN’s Detailed Account of Web Development - http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/about/Web-en.html
- Image Credit: MorgueFile/ppdigital