by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
history, tim berners-lee, web

The First Analysis Of The Web: Vague, But Exciting

from the true,-that dept

It's pretty common knowledge that Tim Berners-Lee is credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web, which we all know and love today. However, if you haven't ever done so, it's actually quite fun to read through his original proposal for the web, as a new way for managing information. Here's a snippet:
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. When describing a complex system, many people resort to diagrams with circles and arrows. Circles and arrows leave one free to describe the interrelationships between things in a way that tables, for example, do not. The system we need is like a diagram of circles and arrows, where circles and arrows can stand for anything.

We can call the circles nodes, and the arrows links. Suppose each node is like a small note, summary article, or comment. I'm not over concerned here with whether it has text or graphics or both. Ideally, it represents or describes one particular person or object
But perhaps even cooler, as pointed out to us by Mathew Ingram, is an image of the actual physical copy of the first version of this proposal that Berners-Lee gave his boss, Mike Sendall. At the top of the cover Sendall scribbled, "Vague, but exciting."
Amusingly, one could argue that description still applies -- and, in fact, is part of the reason why the web has been so phenomenally successful. Its amazing openness may have been "vague" but it was also that vagueness and openness that not only made the web so exciting, but made it possible for the rest of the world to fill in details to make it do whatever people wanted.

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  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 19 Apr 2012 @ 4:43am

    The web is only beginning...

    ...and it's still not the most important or interesting component of the Internet. Not that it doesn't show great promise -- it most certainly does, and some marvelous things have been done with it already. But contrary to the perception of many newbies (who often believe that web == Internet, that it's always been there, and that it always will be) it's just another experiment in a long line of experiments. It remains to be seen whether it can establish itself as something of lasting value.

    My guess is (a) that it will but (b) it won't look much like the web of today. There are massive improvements required in semantics, privacy, and security -- many of which are either in the architecture or design stages already. There's also, unfortunately, the possibility that it will be legislated and litigated into oblivion by utterly clueless politicians and rapaciously greedy patent trolls, monopolists, obsolete businesses, and "cyberwarfareomghackerssecurity" companies.

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