The World Wide Web Turns 10!!
By: Constance Harness
Associated Press article by Anick Jesdanun published by the Spartanburg
Herald-Journal on December 27, 2000, reports on the tenth anniversary
of the World Wide Web (WWW) and its inventor Tim Berners-Lee. The
WWW now spans approximately 7 million sites; but at the beginning
Berners-Lee could hardly get his colleagues interested in it. Ten
years later, the worries are different as the web grows by quantum
leaps as commercial developers pile layer after layer of software
on top of its foundation.
In the first three years of the infancy
of the WWW, Berners-Lee was not sure it would take off. He was not
seeking to get rich off the web and thought each day that a competitor
would knock it out of existence. An information retrieval system
named Gopher appeared but was abandoned by many in 1993 when the
University of Minnesota tried to charge for the software. Later
that same year, Mosaic was released by a team at the University
of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)
which combined graphics and text on a single page; Tim knew then
that his invention would survive. The NCSA soon formed Netscape
Communications which developed the first commercial web browser
arousing interest in none other than Microsoft Corp. (and others)
who developed the web’s commerce potential.
Jesdanun reported: " Berners-Lee first
proposed the web in 1989 while developing ways to control computers
remotely at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear
Two concepts, the Internet and hypertext,
which date from the 1960s, were well known to engineers; and Berners-Lee
saw the benefit of combining the two. In October 1990, he began
writing the software. His browser was working by mid-November; and
by December, he had added editing features. On Christmas Day, the
program was available at CERN. At that time, Berners-Lee and colleague
Robert Cailliau were the Web’s only users (compare with 7-million
Tim reports that development of the
browser was very exciting but he was stumped as to what to do next.
After all, browsing was great; but having only one web site to browse
put a slight damper on the enthusiasm. Another stickler to this
new invention was the fact that he was spending quite a bit of time
on something he had not been hired to do. This necessitated finding
interns and research fellows through backdoor channels to work on
adapting the browser to other computer systems as well as convincing
CERN colleagues to put up a phone book and other resources on the
The first public browser was introduced
in 1991 and users typed in commands rather than clicking links.
Eventually, Marc Andreessen and the Mosaic team added graphics and
made the software simple to install thus opening the Web to the
Some of his concerns: "The Web is not
designed to be restricted to any one domain at all," Tim said. Commercial
and noncommercial sites coexist peacefully. He is, however, troubled
by features that track users and collect personal data; and his
consortium is developing software that will limit information gathering.
He also questions search engines that favor marketing partners producing
biased search results.
A lack of standards is also a concern.
Programs which expand the Web’s usefulness such as Java could make
sites unavailable or useless to older computers when languages change.
Adding more complicated or fancy features in a Web sit also makes
the Web less universal. His consortium is in the process of developing
standards to meet these challenges. The foundation of the Web will
remain the same; but the standards will include extensible markup
language, or XML, which tags Web information with hidden codes so
businesses can exchange data without having to reformat them.
Berners-Lee has no regrets about turning
down commercial opportunities because he feels that the growth experienced
by the Web would not have happened if it had not been for openness
among the early developers. He stated, "No other businesses would
have been prepared to bet their entire company on the Web, as a
huge number of businesses do. All the volunteers, all the nonprofit
groups would not have done it. Having a neutral was essential."
Dertouzos, director of the Laboratory of Computer Science at Massachusetts
Institue of Technology, says: "While everybody wanted to make the
web theirs, he wanted to make the Web belong to everybody."
Berners-Lee says that the only thing
he would do differently would be the crafting of the URLs (uniform
resource locators). He would not have put in double slashes (//).
He stated that he did not realize how much time it takes for someone
to say slash, slash.