This weekend the world wide web turned the big 20! It began as a simple page of links that allowed a group of scientists to share data in the confines of their laboratories. But in the 20 years since, it has become an inextricable part of the lives of billions of people.
The World Wide Web (WWW) was born on August 6, 1991, when the first web page was launched on the internet by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The London-born physicist and computer scientist was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva when he sought to find a better way for his colleagues to link up. He first proposed the WWW in 1989 and posted a prophetic summary of the project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, saying: ‘The WWW project aims to allow all links to be made to any information anywhere.’ The first website – https://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html – was hosted at the rather cryptic URL nxoc01.cern.ch. The NeXT Computer used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first web server
When it went live, Sir Berners-Lee, 56, said: ‘We are very interested in spreading the web to other areas and having gateway servers for other data. Collaborators welcome.’ And collaborate they did. By 1992, there were 50 web servers around the world and, as of Friday, there were 19.68billion pages – more than three times the world’s population.
In between, it has been the platform for the boom and bust of dot-com businesses in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the inexorable rise of social networking, Google and YouTube, and the more sinister art of cyber crime. The rise of Google has made it even easier to find and access information over the web
The WWW should not be confused with the internet. They are related, but not the same. The term internet, coined in 1974, refers to the vast networking infrastructure that connects millions of computers, while the WWW is the method of accessing information over the internet through web pages.
Berners-Lee isn’t credited with connecting up all the computers – he developed three technologies that made it possible for users to better find and share information among these connected systems.
The first development were uniform resource locators (URLs), which are like mailing addresses for information.
The second is HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is the code a web browser needs to show the text, graphics and hyperlinking systems.
His third invention was the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that enables requests and file transmissions to occur between Web browsers and web servers.