History of the WWW

The first proposal for the WWW was made at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, and further refined by him and Robert Cailliau in 1990. By the end of that year, prototype software for a basic system was already being demonstrated. To encourage its adoption, an interface to the CERN Computer Centre’s documentation, to the “help service” and also to the familiar Usenet newsgroups was provided.

The first web server in the United States came on-line in December 1991, once again in a pure research institute: the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center ( SLAC ) in California . At this stage, there were essentially only two kinds of browser. One was the original development version, very sophisticated but only available on the NeXT machines. The other was the “line-mode” browser, which was easy to install and run on any platform but limited in power and user-friendliness. It was clear that the small team at CERN could not do all the work needed to develop the system further, so Tim Berners-Lee launched a plea via the Internet for other developers to join in. Several individuals wrote browsers, mostly for the X-window system. The most notable from this era are MIDAS by Tony Johnson from SLAC, Viola by Pei Wei from O’Reilly, Erwise by the Finns from the Helsinki University of Technology.

The existence of reliable user-friendly browsers on these popular computers had an immediate impact on the spread of WWW. The European Commission approved its first Web project (WISE) at the end of the same year, with CERN as one of the partners. By 1994 really was the “Year of the Web”. The world’s First International World-Wide Web conference was held at CERN in May. It was attended by 400 users and developers, and was hailed as the “Woodstock of the Web”. As 1994 progressed, Web stories got into all the media. A second conference, attended by 1300 people, was held in the US in October, organised by NCSA and the already created International WWW Conference Committee (IW3C2).

By the end of 1994, the Web had 10,000 servers, of which 2,000 were commercial, and 10 million users. The technology was continually extended to cater for new needs. Security and tools for e-commerce were the most important features soon to be added. In such contest, an essential point was that the Web should remain an open standard for all to use and for no-one to lock up into a proprietary system.

In January 1995, the International World-Wide Web Consortium ( W3C ) was founded “to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability”.

In 1995 Tim and Robert shared the Association for Computing ( ACM ) Software System Award for developing the World-Wide Web with M. Andreesen and E. Bina of NCSA .

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