“You affect the world by what you browse.” Tim Berners-Lee
Do you remember a time without the World Wide Web? I struggle to remember what it was like before I used Google and how did I used to do my banking, book holidays and event tickets before I did it online! Oh yeah, I remember I had to physically go to the bank, travel agent or booking office! There was no browsing on sites such as Facebook, online shopping and searching! My children have grown up with all those things taken for granted and anyone under the age of twenty would struggle to remember a time without being able to search and access information online.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee’s presentation of his technical proposal for an information management system that became known as the World Wide Web (just to clarify not to be confused with the internet which is the massive chain of networks it uses). When Sir Tim (knighted by the Queen in 2004) first submitted his bold idea to his superiors at the Swiss physics laboratory Cern where he worked, his boss wrote on top of the proposal: ‘Vague, but exciting.’ Well ‘vague‘ is an understatement if ever I heard one, as Berners-Lee invention has gone on to revolutionise the way billions of people and businesses communicate globally. It has been reported that now just over two decades later, there are an estimated 630 million websites. Wowsers!! To think the proposal was initially completely ignored by Cern. Recent UK government statistics show that last year, 73% of British adults (36 million) accessed the internet every day and 83% (21 million) households had internet access.
Originally Physics graduate Sir Tim developed his revolutionary proposal (based on his earlier programme for storing information called Enquire) to meet the demand for information-sharing between physicists in universities and other educational and scientific institutes around the world. Importantly it enabled users to click on links to access files hosted on computers located elsewhere. Sir Tim wrote the first world wide web server, httpd, and the first client WorldWideWeb. Although today will be celebrated as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of the World Wide Web it didn’t actually launch publicly until two-and-a-half years later, on 6th August 1991.
Factual Bit: The World Wide Web (abbreviated as www or w3) commonly known as the web, is a system that allows people to access files on servers around the world using a browser, making it easy to navigate between clickable links. A key feature of the web is that it can be accessed on various computer operating systems. With a web browser, you can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigate between them via hyperlinks. (Wikipedia/Sky News) Yeah, yeah we all knew that already, right ?!?
Berners-Lee was honoured as the “Inventor of the World Wide Web” during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, where he appeared in person, working on a vintage NeXT computer. He tweeted “This is for everyone” which was instantly spelled out in LCD lights attached to the chairs of the 80,000 audience.
This quarter of a century milestone will be marked across the globe today in recognition of Sir Tim’s incredible and life changing proposal. I cannot imagine being without the web now and all that I personally use it for, especially in terms of communication as an expat, and I expect most of you reading this would whole heartily agree. Happy 25th Anniversary Sir Tim and the World Wide Web.