The World Wide Web is a collection of web pages or websites stored in web servers that can be accessed over the internet. It was invented by Tim Berners-Lee on December 1992 and its gradual development over the years has a history of its own. WWW was initially accessible only to CERN members but the inventor decided to make it available to people all across the world. Since then, the web has never looked back and there are currently around 1.14 billion websites in the world and many new emerging ones. In this article, we will discuss the December 1992 launch of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and the extension of the World Wide Web on a global level.
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Tim Berners-Lee and the Launch of the World Wide Web
- Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist and the founder of the World Wide Web was born in London on June 8, 1955. His parents Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee were computer scientists who worked on the first commercially built computer.
- Tim was a railway buff from early childhood and came to know about electronics while toying with a railway model.
- He pursued B.A. degree in physics at The Queen’s College, Oxford where he ranked first class.
- After completing his graduation, Tim became a software engineer at CERN ( European Organization for Nuclear Research) which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Scientists from different universities and institutions came to use the accelerations but Tim realized that they were having trouble sharing information. Different computers had different information which required logging onto them to gain accessibility.
- The engineer introduced a new technology, the “hypertext” that could be exploited to share information. Hypertext is linking text with documents in other locations. He combined the technologies of computers, hypertext, and data networks to build an information system that could supply information to people all over the world. The program he created for himself was named Enquire.
- After the first proposal in March 1989, Tim wrote another proposal in May 1990.
- With a NeXT computer, he along with Robert Cailliau started their work on the web with the document “Information Management: A Proposal” on 12 November 1990. This document was an outline of the chief concepts and describes a Hypertext project titled “WorldWideWeb” undertaken by the two CERN engineers in a detailed manner.
- Tim also wrote the three technologies that became the basis of the modern-day web: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), URI/URL (Universal Resource Identifier/Uniform Resource Locator), and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).
- A browser was the need of the hour to read the web along with a computer program for storing webpages. As a result, the first browser “WorldWideWeb.app” and the first server “httpd” came into existence. Although a sophisticated one, the browser had features similar to modern times and even had editing capability.
- Tim was working on the code of the web server on a NeXT computer at CERN. So, the NeXT computer he used became the world’s first internet server. To avoid the server from shutting down, there was a handwritten note saying, “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”
- The first address and web server to run on a NeXT computer at CERN were info.cern.ch and the first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html. This webpage published in 1991 was a simple outline of the WorldWideWeb project containing information details about the hypertext project like the description of the hypertext, ways to create a web server, and links to different web servers.
- The first web server went public in the United States at the end of 1991. It was being developed at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto, California.
- The webpage so developed only catered to CERN scientists by providing them with information. The users greatly relied on keywords to make their searches.
World Wide Web Extends Beyond CERN
- A simpler alternative search for a second browser was going on which led to the development of the line-mode browser. This browser was able to run on any system and was written by Nicola Pellow at CERN.
- Tim Berners-Lee launched WWW software in 1991 which was a package of the line-mode browser, Web server software, and a library for software developers. In the same year, the software was being used by the employees using CERN computers.
How did the World Wide Web Go Global?
- Since the two browsers had some of their disadvantages, the group at CERN decided to further develop the system by calling in other developers. The protocols and the server were ready and the browser needed some improvements. As a result, by the end of 1990, the first web page was made available on the open internet and people from different parts of the world were invited to become a participant in the web community.
- Many developers wrote different browsers specifically for the X-Window System. Some of the popular ones include MIDASWWW by Tony Johnson from SLAC (November 16, 1992), Erwise by Finnish students from Helsinki University of Technology (April 1992), and Viola by Pei Yuan Wei, a member of the eXperimental Computing Facility (XCF) at the University of California, Berkeley (March 9, 1992).
- Two simple browsers consecutively released by the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in early 1993 had a direct influence on the spread of the World Wide Web. The first browser released by NCSA was “Mosaic” which consisted of graphics, point-and-click methods, and icons. It became instantaneously popular with 2 million users in a year. The second browser developed by NCSA was “Netscape Navigator” which was more convenient for users to use.
- The European Commission approved its first web project, WISE where CERN was a member.
- Tim wanted everyone to have access to the web facility. As a result, to maximize dissemination, he requested CERN to make the underlying source code of the browser WorldWideWeb (originally named Mesh) available on a royalty-free basis. CERN permitted this request on 30 April 1993 which brought forth much innovation and allowed the web to flourish.
- By late 1993, there were more than 500 servers, and the World Wide Web comprised 1% of the internet traffic.
International Conferences on the World Wide Web
- The First International World Wide Web Conference was initiated and organized by Robert Cailliau in May 1994 at CERN. 380 users and developers attended the event which was also hailed as the “Woodstock of the Web”.
- The Second International World Wide Web Conference was held in the United States in October 1994 and was attended by 1300 people as the “Web” got popularised by the media. The event was organized by the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the newly formed International WWW Conference Committee (IW3C2).
- During the same year, the World Wide Web had 10,000 servers and 10 million users. 2000 out of these servers were commercial ones.
- Following these, security features and tools for e-commerce were planned and executed.
Open Standards of the World Wide Web
- To make the World Wide Web open to all, CERN submitted a proposal to the Commission of the European Union under the ESPIRIT program “WebCore”. The project aimed to form an international consortium in partnership with MIT or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Tim Berners-Lee shifted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994 from CERN. Here he becomes the founder and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). W3C is an international community that lends oversight to the web and aims at developing open web standards. He is also the incumbent director of W3Consortium.
- The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Controls (INRIA), took over the role of the CERN and became the new European partner to W3C that was required to further develop the web.
- Years later, Tim Berners-Lee was awarded for his achievements in the field of computer science with the Turing Prize i.e., the Nobel Prize for Computing, and was also declared one of the most important figures of the 20th century by Time. He was even honored by the Olympics and knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 16 July 2004.
Hosts to the W3 Consortium
There were several hosts to the W3Consortium over the years. Some of these are presented below in a chronological manner:
- The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Controls (INRIA) in 1995
- Keio University of Japan (Shonan Fujisawa Campus) in Asia in 1996
- European Research Consortium in Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) in 2003
- Beihang University in 2013
The World Wide Web is used for carrying out everyday tasks from ordering groceries to conducting business online and spreading social movements. Truly, the web has made our lives much simpler and easier. Accessing information through the World Wide Web is just a click away. We remain indebted to Tim Berners-Lee who revolutionized information sharing and for changing the way humans interact with one another. The Web has been existing for more than 3 decades and has a total of 5.07 billion (63.5% of the global population) internet users all over the world. The growth of the internet has been 170 million from October 2021 to 2022 of the same months. With such surging figures, it can be predicted that web users will be on the rise and the web will continue to remain indispensable in the years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who invented the World Wide Web?
The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist at CERN.
What date was the WWW invented?
The World Wide Web was invented with the first proposal written in the year 1989.
What was the first WWW site?
The first WWW site or the address of the world’s first website was http://info.cern.ch.
What was the first name of WorldWideWeb?
After considering several ideas like Information Mesh, The Information Mine, or Mine of Information, Tim Berners-Lee decided to go for the “World Wide Web”.
What is the major difference between the internet and www?
The WWW is a common point of connectivity that is focused on information sharing by navigating the internet. The internet is all about connecting computers, servers, and other devices to form a huge network of systems.
The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while the first prototype of the internet, ARPANET was invented by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the late 1960s.