20 Years Ago Today: The Web Was Proposed

from the how-far-we've-come dept

If you want to realize just how amazing the level of progress has been with the internet, realize this: it was just 20 years ago, today, that Tim Berners-Lee proposed the web:

HyperText is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help). We propose a simple scheme incorporating servers already available at CERN.

The project has two phases: firstly we make use of existing software and hardware as well as implementing simple browsers for the user’s workstations, based on an analysis of the requirements for information access needs by experiments. Secondly, we extend the application area by also allowing the users to add new material.

Phase one should take 3 months with the full manpower complement, phase two a further 3 months, but this phase is more open-ended, and a review of needs and wishes will be incorporated into it.

The manpower required is 4 software engineers and a programmer, (one of which could be a Fellow). Each person works on a specific part (eg. specific platform support).

Each person will require a state-of-the-art workstation , but there must be one of each of the supported types. These will cost from 10 to 20k each, totalling 50k. In addition, we would like to use commercially available software as much as possible, and foresee an expense of 30k during development for one-user licences, visits to existing installations and consultancy.

Quite amazing what that one, quite small, project has since become.

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Comments on “20 Years Ago Today: The Web Was Proposed”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: I have reached the end of the internet

How the hell did you do that? I’ve been working for just under 20 years to finish the Internet. Did you skip the bad parts? You have to see the bad parts to fully understand and enjoy the good parts. It’s like Lord of the Rings books, you can’t skip Aragorn’s part just to see what happens to Frodo.

halley (profile) says:

Re: Everyone knows it was Al!

Bad joke aside, don’t conflate the “web” with the “Internet.” Gore was speaking of legislation that was related to universities and libraries, which joined other networks like ARPAnet to become an inter-network system. Even Vint Cerf agrees that the legislation was instrumental in expanding the effort to connect disparate components. The “web” was an idea to revamp different kinds of services like gopher and ftp etc. into one user interface that relied on a consistent hypertext formatting.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: Re: Everyone knows it was Al!

Avoiding that conflation is a key point, I think, when trying to figure out what will happen next. The web is: ingenious, wonderful, important, empowering, and many other things, but it is not the Internet, and it is not as important as the Internet. (Which in turn may not be as important as ubiquitous computing. Check back in 50 years.)

What I find remarkable is that so few people saw the potential of the Internet prior to the invention of the web, and how many people began to grasp it after. I think that in this sense, the invention has as much value as a mind/eye-opener as it does on its own merits.

What I find disappointing is that so many have treated the Internet as merely a vehicle for advertising, or for extending existing forms of abuse (telemarketing->spamming), or for strip-mining (domaineers and related parasites). Still more disappointing is that we have let them do this, getting in the way of infinitely more valuable and important work like universal access to knowledge and culture.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Just looking at the link Mike provides to the proposal reminds me how far things have come in the last two decades.

The page reminds me of what things first looked like when I got my first copies of Netscape and Motif.

Page after page of this stuff but it was so compelling. So much to poke around in, like an enormous library even if the card catalogue was non existent back then.

Discovering usenet and all the junk on there as well as jewels. All the porn and warez you could imagine! Of course downloading anything with a 14.4K modem was painful.

The discovery of IRC, still one of the best ways of actually chatting with people on the Internet in spite of more flashing, graphical and proprietary protocols.

Today we have sites that are dynamic by design thanks to tools like ASP and PHP. Static is dead or it should be.

New challenges to concepts like copyright and patents that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago as well as unforeseeable.

Information at our finger tips, a tsunami of it if I’m not careful.

In many ways it’s as if the printing press, radio, telephones, telegraph and television had all happened at once instead of over a 400 year time span.

We’re still trying to come to terms with all that the Intenet and http have made possible and all the changes it’s brought and will bring.

Oh yeah, it’s made sites like Techdirt possible so that we can discuss issues we feel are important once Mike has brought our attention to them.

Not bad for something that started out as a military exercise in the United States which started out as a military secret and now has made secrets all but impossible to keep for very long. Not a bad thing, either.

darryl says:

HTML is not "the web".. Do you KNOW anything ??? !!!!!!

HTML is not “the web” the web is ” a BIG WEB” like a spider web.

HTML is a significant development, but it was not specifically developed for the “internet” or the WEB. It was developed to allow scientists to do linked searches through CERN’s scientific data.

Before there was HTML on the internet, the World wide web allready existed, there were BBS’s, and the net was allready heavily used at universities in the mid 1980’s.

sure we did not have a browser, or HTML, but we had FTP and telnet, IRC and so on..

But it is true that HTML was an important development, but certainly NOT the major development, and not something that signifies the birth of the “WEB”.

But again mike, the “WEB” or the World wide web, is a web of computers connected together. It is NOT the application of HTML over the internet.

So according to you, If I am playing warcraft online, I am not on the “web” because I am not using HTML ?

The WEB is a WEB, just like a spider’s web, the web is not HTML, and HTML is not the web.

So Mike if I am viewing a HTML document, from my hard drive am I surfing “the web” ?

Ofcourse I am not, that would be stupid.

You can have HTML without the WEB (the internet), and you can have the WEB (internet) without HTML, so how is HTML ‘the web’.

Thats stupid, sorry to say..

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: HTML is not "the web".. Do you KNOW anything ??? !!!!!!

HTML is not “the web” the web is ” a BIG WEB” like a spider web.

Darryl confused as always.

Title of TBL’s proposal: “WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a HyperText Project”

I love the fact that Darryl has this way of always being 100% wrong in accusing me of being wrong. It’s a special talent.

Darryl may be the first person to think that TBL didn’t invent the web.

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

Re: HTML is not "the web".. Do you KNOW anything ??? !!!!!!

Jeeezus! I don’t know what to think about your comments. I can’t figure out if you’re just taking the piss, or if you’re “genuinely” upset about something, or if you’re just a 6-year-old with really poor grammar. But I do know this – your comments are funny! It’s like you whinge in a stream of consciousness kind of way…

“Mike, you just have no idea, but then there was this cat, and then the other day I saw this car accident and all I could think of was that Mike claims that Einstein invented the Interweb, but of course everyone knows Newton discovered pizza, hmmm, I’m hungry. Hungry for justice! Cos Mike, we all know you eat kittens, and by crikey someone has to take a stand or … hang on … where was I? Oh yeah, Mike, you suck”.

SLK8ne says:


Dude, you need to do some research before you open up on people.

The internet is (put very crudely) the hardware and local NOSs. The world wide web and the TCP/IP protocols used by HTML is what allows the networks to communicate. Before the WWW there were networks, but, they very often couldn’t communicate because of different operating systems and protocols and even if they did, data would come through as gibberish. That is why What Mr. Berners-Lee and his colleges did was so important.

Anonymous Coward says:

This was just the proposal for using Hyper Text which it wasn’t even called yet! They already had ARPAnet and browsers (if you read) so obviously ARPAnet was the internet. HTML just gave them a language to communicate with, thus the programmer. ARPAnet happened in 1969 and that is the true birth of the internet.
Once again a TechDirt article leaves out just enough facts that one has to research the subject to really get the story. This was the birth of HTML. Of course there are still people who think a hard drive is their computer memory and vice versa.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This was just the proposal for using Hyper Text which it wasn’t even called yet! They already had ARPAnet and browsers (if you read) so obviously ARPAnet was the internet. HTML just gave them a language to communicate with, thus the programmer. ARPAnet happened in 1969 and that is the true birth of the internet.

Quite familiar with that. But I didn’t say this was when the “internet” was proposed. That would be wrong and silly. I said this was when the *web* was proposed. Which it was.

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