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Tales In Tech History: 25 Years Of The World Wide Web

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Dialup doldrums…the public was given access to the Internet on 23 August 1991 thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention

The World Wide Web today celebrates the 25th anniversary of when the general public were allowed to access the Internet.

It was on 23 August 1991 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist working at CERN granted public access to the platform.

Public Access

tim berners lee © drserg / Shutterstock.comThe move paved the way for people outside of academia and other early adopters to access the platform that would later transform the way people live their lives today.

Thus 23 August is often referred to as ‘internaut day‘ – a portmanteau of ‘internet’ and ‘astronaut’ (a reference to technically able internet users). Incidentally portmanteau stands for two meanings packed up into one word. Thanks Wikipedia!

Of course, some would argue that 23 August is not a true birthday of the World Wide Web. Some feel 12 March is more suited as Sir Tim first proposed the idea of a system which would turn into World Wide Web on 12 March 1989.

And another important item to remember is that actually the Internet and the World Wide Web are not actually the same thing. The Internet is a network of connected computers. The World Wide Web on the other hand concerns the web pages located on this network of computers.

And to further confuse matters, whilst Sir Tim can be credited with the idea of making the Web accessible for everyone, he didn’t actually invent the Internet. The technologies behind the Internet (ARPAnet) actually stem back to the cold war of the 1960s, when scientists proposed a system that would allow a network of computers to talk to each other in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.

Vint Cerf was the man who came up with the communication system ‘Transmission Control Protocol’ (TCP). Another protocol called ‘Internet Protocol’ (IP) was later added.

Web History

CERN meanwhile played a vital role as well in the adoption of the World Wide Web, after it relinquished all intellectual property rights to Web technology in April 1993.

Twenty years later in 2013, a CERN project recreated the first ever Web page in an effort to preserve history about the web’s early days. The first website went online in August 1991.

CERN is also thought to be restoring Berners Lee’s actual NeXT computer, which was used to host the world’s first website.

Sir Tim has been an active campaigner for an open and equal web and has been a frequent critic of government snooping. He is now director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which works to develop the Web.

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