some sessions in the CERN cafeteria, Tim and I try to find a catching
name for the
system. I was determined that the name should not yet again be taken from Greek
mythology. Tim proposes
'World-Wide Web'. I like this very much, except that it is difficult to pronounce
Cailliau, A Short
History of the Web, 2 November 1995.
Berners-Lee invented the web with help from Robert
Cailliau and others at the nuclear physics laboratory Conseil
Européen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN).
The development of the web was the key technology that popularized
the Internet around the world. The subsections below provide more information
on Berners-Lee, CERN, Cailliau, web
development, and resources.
Berners-Lee's mother and father were both mathematicians who were part of the
team that programmed Manchester University's Mark I, the world's first
commercial, stored program computer, sold by Ferranti Ltd. One day when he was
in high school Berners-Lee found his dad writing a speech on computers for Basil
de Ferranti. Father and son talked about how the human brain has a unique advantage
over computers, since it can connect concepts that aren't already associated.
For example, if you are walking and see a nice tree, you might think about how
cool the park is under the trees, and then think of your backyard, and then decide
to plant a tree for shade behind your house. Young Berners-Lee was left with
powerful impression of the potential for computers to be able to link any two
pieces of previously unrelated information.
from Queen's College at Oxford University in 1976 with a degree in physics. He
then worked for two years as a software engineer with Plessey Telecommunications
on distributed systems, message relays, and bar coding. He then joined D.G. Nash,
where he developed a multi-tasking operating system, and typesetting software
for intelligent printers.
In 1980, Berners-Lee first started
work as a consultant at CERN,
originally called the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucleaire,
and now the European Particle Physics Laboratory, but still called CERN
for old time's sake. The organization consists of many facilities located in
beautiful area in the Jura mountains on the border between France and Switzerland.
It was because CERN was so large and complex, with thousands of researchers
hundreds of systems, that Berners-Lee developed his first hypertext system to
keep track of who worked on which project, what software was associated with
program, and which software ran on which computers. Like
the development of packet switching,
hyperlinks are an idea that seemed to want to be found, with Berners-Lee
developing his ideas within five years of Ted
and Douglas Engelbart.
Berners-Lee named his first hypertext system Enquire,
after an old book he found as a child in his parents house called Enquire Within
upon Everything which provided a range of household tips and advice. The book
fascinated young Tim with the suggestion that it magically contained the answer
to any problem in the world. With the building of the Enquire system in 1980,
and then the Web ten years later, Berners-Lee has pretty much successfully dedicated
his life to making that childhood book real.
1981 to 1984, Berners-Lee left CERN and worked at Image Computer Systems as Technical
Design Lead, with responsibility for real-time, graphics, and communications software
for an innovative software program that enabled older dot-matrix printers to print
a wide range of advanced graphics. He then rejoined CERN full-time in 1984, and almost
immediately started trying to get a hypertext project approved for official funding.
In March, 1989, he completed a project proposal for a system to communicate information
among researchers in the CERN High Energy Physics department, intended to help
those having problems sharing information across a wide range of different networks,
computers, and countries. The project had two main goals:
design. Like Robert Kahn's design for TCP/IP,
the hypertext system should have an open architecture, and be able to run on
computer being used at CERN including Unix,
VMS, Macintosh, NextStep, and Windows.
- Network distribution.
The system should be distributed over a communications network. However, Berners-Lee
thought that there might be an intermediary period when most of the research material
was carried on individual CDROM's, which never became necessary.
Cailliau had independently proposed a project to develop a hypertext
system at CERN, and joined Berners-Lee as a partner in his efforts to get the web off the ground. He rewrote
the project proposal, lobbied management for funding, rounded up programmers,
collaborated with Berners-Lee on papers and presentations, and helped run the first WWW conference. Cailliau later became President of the
International World Wide Web Conference Committee (IW3C2).
Web development. In the fall of 1990, Berners-Lee took about a month to develop the first web
browser on a NeXT computer, including an integrated editor that could create hypertext
documents. He deployed the program on his and Cailliau's computers, and they were
both communicating with the world's first web
server at info.cern.ch on December 25,
The first project Berners-Lee and Cailliau tackled was to put the
CERN telephone book on the web site, making the project immediately useful and
gaining it rapid acceptance. Some CERN staff started keeping one window open on
their computer at all times just to access the telephone web page.
CERN had been connected to the ARPANET
through the EUnet in 1990. In August, 1991,
Tim posted a notice on the alt.hypertext newsgroup
about where to download their web server and line mode browser, making it available
around the world. Web servers started popping up around the globe almost immediately.
An official Usenet 8 newsgroup called
comp.infosystems.www was soon established
to share info.
Berners-Lee then added support for the FTP protocol to the
server, making a wide range of existing FTP directories and Usenet
newsgroups immediately accessible through a web page. He also added
a telnet server on info.cern.ch, making a simple line browser available to anyone
with a telnet client. The first
public demonstration of the web server was given at the Hypertext 91 conference.
Development of this web server, which came to be called CERN
httpd, would continue until July, 1996.
In June, 1992, CERN sent Berners-Lee
on a three month trip through the United States. First he visited MIT's Laboratory
for Computer Science, then went to an IETF
conference in Boston, then visited Xerox-Parc
in Palo Alto, California. At the end of this trip he visited Ted
Nelson, then living on a houseboat in Sausalito. Interestingly, Nelson
had experience with film making, Berners-Lee had experience working with lighting
and audiovisual equipment in the amateur theater, and Tom Bruce, who created
the first PC web browser called Cello,
also worked professionally as a stage manager in the theater. Maybe these Internet
techies are all really just artists at heart...
In a fateful decision that significantly
helped the web to grow, Berners-Lee managed to get CERN to provide a certification
on April 30, 1993, that the web technology and program code was in the public
domain so that anyone could use and improve it.
In 1994, Berners-Lee
joined the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
where he currently holds the 3Com Founders Chair, and has served as Director of
the W3C Consortium
since it was founded. Berners-Lee
has also authored a number of web related documents, including those in the HTML
Among other awards
and honours, in December,
1993, Berners-Lee and Cailliau shared the ACM
Software System Award with
Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina of NCSA
for their efforts in developing the Web.
He was awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society
of the Arts in 2002 by Prince
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and dubbed a Knight Commander,
Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II on July
16, 2004, using the
sword that had belonged to her father, King George VI.
2004, he was awarded the inaugural Millennium
Technology Prize in Helsinki, Finland.
Resources. Some of Berners-Lee's online publications are listed below:
- The WorldWide Web Initiative (infonet93.ps).
Online publications by Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau:
- World Wide Web; CERN; Invited
talk at conference: Computing in High Energy Physics 92, Annecy, France, 23?27
- With Jean François
Groff, Bernd Pollermann; World Wide
Web: The Information Universe (select Article_9202.pdf); CERN, 1211 Geneva
of: Berners?Lee, T., et al., (1992) ``World?Wide Web: The Information; Universe''
, Electronic Networking: Research, Applications and Policy, Vol 1; No 2, Meckler,
Westport CT, Spring 1992.
Online publication by Robert Cailliau: