Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy 15th birthday WWW

LONDON (AFP) - The World Wide Web is still only in its infancy, its British inventor said Wednesday, on the 15th anniversary of the web's effective launch.

Tim Berners-Lee told the BBC that the web, which started life in the CERN physics laboratory on the Franco-Swiss border in the early 1990s, could develop in unimaginable directions but above all should be a force for good.

"What's exciting is that people are building new social systems, new systems of review, new systems of governance," he said.

"My hope is that those will produce... new ways of working together effectively and fairly which we can use globally to manage ourselves as a planet."

The comments came on the anniversary of the announcement by CERN on April 30, 1993 that the World Wide Web could be used by everyone, after Berners-Lee and a colleague persuaded their bosses to provide the programme code for free.

The web -- of which the abbreviation www forms the start of all online addresses -- is now the ubiquitous network via which information is shared on the Internet. An estimated 165 million websites now exist, the BBC reported.

"The web has been a tremendous tool for people to do a lot of good even though you can find bad stuff out there," said Berners-Lee, adding that one day the web will put "all the data in the world" at the fingertips of every user.

But "we have only started to explore the possibilities of (the web)," he said, adding that it was "still in its infancy".

Robert Cailliau, who worked with Berners-Lee to open up the web, stressed that not all the bosses at CERN were in favour of making the web universally accessible.

"We had to convince them that this was going to take off and it was a really big thing. And therefore CERN couldn't hold on to it and the best thing to do was to give it away," he said.

Competing technologies -- such as Gopher developed at the University of Minnesota in the United States -- were also offering a way of connecting documents on the Internet, he said.

"If we had put a price on it like the University of Minnesota had done with Gopher then it would not have expanded into what it is now.

"We would have had some sort of market share alongside services like AOL and Compuserve, but we would not have flattened the world."


Alexander said...

Wow,15 years? Crikey! Internet certainly has changed the world tremendously. Of note at this same time though is that at this stage in the webs history it is currently the most regulated and under scrutiny from government and companies than ever before in its history,even in the western world. While we celebrate this landmark,western governments worldwide are increasingly attempting to get their paws into controlling access at a local level as if it's a state owned TV station, the content of which 'they' determine, with that good old trojan horse of 'protecting people', and making local users subject to local laws.

Pressure groups (AKA - do gooders) increasingly pressure governments to block access to certain websites for the influence they 'may' have on youth (and adults).

Be that social network sites, websites that discuss suicide, etc etc. Certain websites can also come under a gaze of 'glorifying terrorism' now and could have you under scrutiny for visiting or even downloading material from, even if simply researching and seeing what makes other people tick.

Email and Blog anonynimity is under threat as some hosts have been found handing the details of political dissidents over to authorities,as money talked louder than freedom. People get fired because they outed the dirty linen of organizations they work for on a blog, and were recognized through certain flags. Companies are threatening I.Ps with court if they don't stop file sharing. To me, this is the worst time to be a user of the internet in 'some' ways. Around 1998/1999 it was still a medium which was relatively wide open. The web is fantastic, but for how long?

Martin said...

Hey alexander

Great post. Have you heard about the new "Internet 2.0" that is being developed in, funnily enough, Cern again?

With speeds of 10,000 times greater than the internet now, it could make the internet as we know it obsolete!

Do you have an email address? Say hello to me sometime at I had a great email on this subject that I sent round to my friends.

Hopefully a new internet will start with zero regulation again, so all the sticky fingers that have been put in so far will be lost for a while.