Tim Berners-Lee

Nice profile of Tim Berners-Lee, ‘inventor’ of the World Wide Web, in today’s Guardian:

There are, according to recent figures, more than 35 million web users in the UK today. More than 15 million British homes have internet connections and, thanks to faster broadband technologies, we are living in a radically different world from that which was predicted.
The world wide web has changed millions of lives in little more than a decade. For some it has changed fortunes as well: this week was the 10th anniversary of what is widely acknowledged as the beginning of the dotcom boom – when the web browser firm Netscape floated on the US stock market before ever turning a profit. That sparked a technology goldrush that has transformed modern communication. And while much of the boom was hyperbole, one rock solid fact remains: none of it would have happened if it was not for Tim Berners-Lee.

Sir Tim, named last year as the greatest living Briton, is rightly heralded as the godfather of the web. It was he who, as a physicist working in Switzerland, turned the internet from a disparate collection of academic and military computer systems into an international network. Without his input, arguably, the world would be a far duller place. The global village would still be under construction, technology would still be the preserve of an elite, and revolutionary companies such as Google, Amazon – and even easyJet – would not exist.


3 thoughts on “Tim Berners-Lee”

  1. Perhaps a techie like you can explain this to me, Dave. Why is it that TBL is always referred to as ‘the inventor of the World Wide Web’ rather than ‘the inventor of the internet’? Is there a difference, except that nobody calls it the world wide web? Or was the world wide web a limited precursor to the internet as we now know it, and so it’s just a bit of jingoistic chestbeating by British media, rather like the laughable notion that John Logie Baird invented the television (actually he invented a completely impractical form of television which never got off the ground, and Marconi invented the cathode ray tube television). Or am I gloriously off the case as usual?

  2. The internet is different from the world wide web. The internet existed before the web did – in the form of ARPAnet, various bulletin boards, email, FTP, that sort of thing. The web simply refers to pages viewed in a web browser. This was originally HTML pages, but this has obviously grown to encompass various other technologies like PHP and stuff. But Berners-Lee DID invent HTML and the web (drawing on the earlier work of others, of course), largely as a way of keeping his documentation in order. The internet – essentially just a network like you or I have in our offices, only on a global scale – has existed since about 1983 when the TCP/IP protocol started to be used. See here for a more coherent analysis. Or John Naughton’s book, A Brief History of the Future which I could lend you if you are that bothered!

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