Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy 23rd anniv to WWW

The World Wide Web turns 23 today, barely a college grad. How did we live without it? Inventor Tim Berners-Lee has been knighted for his work, a well-deserved honor. I'm glad they didn't name it "Mine of Information," but the poet in me has always wished that the protocol was "WEB-dot-sitename" (with a one-syllable WEB) versus "WWW-dot-sitename." The nine syllables of that WWW grate on the ear. Below is good history from The Writer's Almanac, that estimable service from PRI International. How prescient Arthur C. Clarke was!

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, courtesy of
Paul Clarke/Wikimedia
WWW ... "turns 23 years old today. The proposal for a new global system of interlinked documents on the Internet was published on this date in 1990.

"Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who was working for CERN, wrote an early proposal in 1989. He wanted to create a more efficient method of information management and communication throughout CERN, but soon realized that the concept could be broadened to span the whole world. His first proposal didn't generate much interest, so he enlisted the aid of another computer scientist, Robert Cailliau. The pair produced a more elaborate proposal on this date in 1990, including a prototype Web page. They predicted it would take no longer than three months to have a Web of read-only files up and running, and they were correct. ... Berners-Lee and Cailliau tried on a few different names for their system, including Information Mesh, The Information Mine, and Mine of Information, but rejected them. Early on, they referred to the World Wide Web as W3, but that nickname didn't stick; most people just call it "the Web." ....

"The very first Web page was nothing fancy. There were no pop-up ads, no social media, no emoticons, and no funny cat videos. There was a page header that read "The World Wide Web Project," and an introductory sentence that explained, "The WorldWideWeb (W3) is a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents." The Web became available for use by the public in August 1991.

"The vision for the World Wide Web was already 20 years old by the time Berners-Lee wrote his proposal. Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke had predicted it in the 1970 issue of Popular Science, writing that satellites would "bring the accumulated knowledge of the world to your fingertips." People would access this information, Clarke prophesied, through a machine that was a combination of computer, telephone, television, and photocopier. He also envisioned every home having its own small computer that would deliver to a person "all the information he needs for his everyday life: his bank statements, his theater reservations, all the information you need over the course of living in a complex modern society."