25 things you probably didn’t know about the Web
The Web of today was built - and continues to be built - by everyone. Yet it owes much to many people, some who came before its invention in 1989, and all those who have since then made it an invaluable resource for humanity.
To celebrate 25 years of the Web we have gathered 24 facts about Tim Berners-Lee, the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the World Wide Web Foundation.
In the spirit of the Web, we want your input on what the 25th fact should be. Tell us on social media with hash tag #web25fact.
- Berners-Lee is the son of British mathematicians and computer scientists Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee, who worked on the first commercially-built electronic computer, the Ferranti Mark 1.
- In college, Berners-Lee built a computer out of an old television set.
- The Web was not Berners-Lee’s first design for a system to link information. In 1980 he wrote ENQUIRE, whose name came from a Victorian era how-to book called “Enquire Within Upon Everything” owned by Berners-Lee’s parents while he was growing up. The ENQUIRE code has been lost to history.
- Before settling on “the Web,” Berners-Lee thought of the names “Information Mesh”, “The Information Mine”, and “Mine of Information”.
- The Web was first described in a March 1989 proposal from Berners-Lee while at CERN. In it he wrote, “In providing a system for manipulating this sort of information, the hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organisation and the projects it describes. For this to be possible, the method of storage must not place its own restraints on the information. This is why a “web” of notes with links (like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system.” For even more about the people who inspired and built the Web, see Berners-Lee’s 2004 presentation How it all Started.
- Mike Sendall, Berners-Lee’s manager at the time, commented on the original proposal “Vague, but exciting.” Fortunately, Sendall thought enough of the proposal to allow Berners-Lee to work on it on the side.
- In 1990, Berners-Lee wrote the first browser and editor, called “WorldWideWeb.app,” which ran on a NeXT computer. Steve Jobs had left Apple to create NeXT Inc., and later returned to Apple.
- WorldWideWeb.app, which took 2 months to write, was also an editor, so the earliest vision of the Web was one where anyone could contribute.
- The first Web site was info.cern.ch, hosted by CERN, on Tim’s desktop computer.
- The early Web pages from 1992 were preserved by Berners-Lee and W3C, but CERN did not serve them at theoriginal address until in April 2013.
- A few simple ideas have played a key role in making the Web a success:
- it is universal: it can be made to work with any form of data, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information
- it is decentralized: anybody can create a site. This enabled the Web to grow quickly.
- the core technology is royalty-free: because people can implement Web technology royalty-free, this spurs innovation.
- it is the result of global collaboration.
- The Web is not the same thing as the Internet. The Internet protocols describe how to send packets of information between pieces of software. The first Internet protocols were defined in 1969. Since then, many applications have used them in different ways, including Email, FTP, and the Web. The Web is any information that is identified with a URL (Universal Resource Locator). That makes the URL the most fundamental piece of Web technology.
- The double slash “//” in URLs was an idea Berners-Lee copied from the Apollo workstation’s ‘domain’ file system. Microsoft later adopted double backslash ‘\\’ under the same influence.
- Although many Web site addresses start with “www” there is no requirement they begin this way; it was just an early convention to help people recognize that someone was running a Web server.
- The WorldWideWeb browser was made available on on the public Internet by FTP, and promoted on network news messages in August 1991. Other browsers soon followed, including ViolaWWW, Midas, Erwise, and Samba. Mosaic, which later became Netscape, was released in 1993. You can experience the early ‘line mode’ browser that was released in 1992 with a line mode browser emulator made available in 2013.
- On 30 April 1993, CERN put WorldWideWeb in the public domain, a critical milestone in enabling broad adoption of the Web.
- In October 1994, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop common standards for core Web technology. The goal of the organization is to ensure the Web is available to all, and not fragmented into proprietary silos. Today four neutral academic organizations host the activities of the Consortium: MIT, ERCIM, Keio University, and Beihang University.
- In 2004, W3C adopted an industry-leading Royalty-Free patent policy to further Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web as an open platform for innovation.
- Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. While some call him “Sir Tim”, he most often goes by “timbl”.
- In 2008, Berners-Lee launched the World Web Foundation. Its mission? To establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely.
- Today it is estimated that just under 40% of the world’s population has Internet access. On average, a fixed broadband connection costs over a third of income in the developing world. (Source: ITU)
- The languages most used in online communications are, in order: English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
- Estimates of the number of Web pages vary greatly, but it is surely in the tens of billions. Many estimates depend on what search engines access, but it is expected that many times more public pages exist that are not indexed by search engines.
- Internet live stats estimates that the number of Web sites will reach 1 billion by the end of 2014, this anniversary year.