Internauts, today we celebrate this glorious technology that brings us all together! On August 23, 1991 — 25 years ago today — the public gained access for the first time to the World Wide Web, designed and deployed by computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland.
It gave rise to the internet as we know and use it today.
The internet and the World Wide Web are not interchangeable. The internet was first connected in 1969, and refers to the network that carries information between nodes. The World Wide Web refers to the space on this network where information, such as web pages and documents, are stored. Think of the World Wide Web as neurons, and the internet as synapses.
In 1980, Berner-Lee had created a personal database of people and software models at CERN. It was here he deployed the use of hypertext, where each page linked to another, already existing page. Over the next decade, he would develop this further, and in 1989 proposed the idea of “a universal linked information system” to help physicists collaborate, combining the internet with hypertext.
In 1990, he built the HyperText Transfer Protocol (which you may know as HTTP); the HyperText Markup Language (HTML); Uniform Resource Identifier (or URL); the first web browser and server; and the first web pages.
The very first web page, which can be found online at its original URL, went live on August 6, 1991. At this point, it was only available to users at CERN, and it was a short page explaining what the World Wide Web actually was.
On August 23, 1991, new users outside of CERN were invited to join the web, marking its official anniversry, or Internaut Day. And in April 1993, CERN announced the decisionto make the underlying code for the web royalty-free in perpetuity.
“Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off,” Berners-Lee explained. “The decision to make the web an open system was necessary for it to be universal. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”
While Berners-Lee feels there’s room for improvement, there’s no denying the web has achieved magnificent things in its 25 years so far. Here’s to the next 25 years of scintillating cat gifs.