August 6 marks the 20th anniversary of the world-wide web. It was the day when Tim Berners Lee and Robert Cailliau (both researchers at CERN) published a description of the world-wide web project and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) in the usenet group alt.hypertext and asked the readers to “try it.” I had the honor to meet both gentlemen when in 1995 I gave the first lecture on Java at CERN and I received the WWW needle (see logo below) as a token of appreciation from Robert Cailliau .
It is almost unbelievable what happened in those 20 years. The protocol allowed small programs on all kind of computers (now called browsers) to access information on other computers which was presented using that protocol. One of the first browsers was Mosaic, developed in 1993 by Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina.
How little the web was integrated into our daily life can be told in a story, which I experienced in 1995: I predicted at the Basler Mediengruppe Conference in Interlaken (50 Swiss newspapers and magazines) that classified ads will migrate to the web and that advertisement posters will soon carry URL’s. The audience of about 100 journalists burst into a roaring laughter. The speaker after me then reassured the audience that this “internet thing” is a tech freak hype which will disappear as fast as we saw it coming. Never –he remarked–people will go to the internet to search for classified ads and he also told that never print media will carry these ugly URL’s. Anyway the total readership of the Web in Switzerland at that time, as he mentioned, was less than that of the “Thuner Tagblatt“, the local newspaper of the neighboring town. It is interesting to note though that in 1998 (if my memory is correct) the same gentleman officially launched the first Swiss website for online advertisement and online classified ads (today SwissClick AG).
Many articles have been written on the history of the web. It is incredible how much we take it for granted today. When did you last buy a time-table for the train? When did you last go to a travel agency to find out crossing times and availability of ferries? When did you last open a dictionary to search for a word? When did you last walk to a library to look up a reference? When did you last consult a phone book to look up a number? When did you buy your last multi-volume encyclopedia? When did you last buy a CD (well–let’s not go there . . .)?
I can’t believe it’s been mere 20 years. Since then a whole generation has grown to adulthood and they ask “you had no web those days? But you did have electricity?”
- Interview with Tim Berners-Lee, September 2009 (infostory.wordpress.com)
- Computer Scientist Calls For Web Search Shake-Up (tech.slashdot.org)
- Tim Berners-Lee (websites123.wordpress.com)
- The Birth of the World Wide Web (brighthub.com)
- Which is the Most Important Year? (ignitemindsindia.com)
- Cern (markboulton.co.uk)
- First step on WWW|World First Website&WebBrowser|Screenshots (techtimely.wordpress.com)
- “Probiert es aus!” (BazOnline)
- alt.hypertext Article by Tim BL