Internet – Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-LeeTwo days ago I discussed how the DARPA government agency conceived of and funded the creation of the first internet. Then yesterday I spoke about Al Gore’s role in the development of the internet. Today I’ll talk about a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee who was and remains instrumental in the World Wide Web.

First let’s discuss the difference between the WWW and the Internet because I think there is a lot of confusion. The internet is simply all the computers that communicate with one another. This involves an alphabet soup of acronyms none more important that TCP/IP but I don’t want this to get blog to get too technical. The WWW is all the documents connected by hypertext. This sounds strange but every time you visit a web page you are seeing a document and said file is being “rendered” by your browser into images and text.

Sir Tim, as he is now known, wrote a proposal in 1989 that involved using something called hypertext to link documents. He along with Robert Cailliau then refined their proposal envisioning the WWW accessed by people like us using browsers. Sir Tim then created a Web Server, a computer with files that could be interpreted by the first web browser that he also created. He then posted this information and made his server available to all comers. In doing this he created some of the alphabet soup I spoke about earlier, HTTP, HTML, and URL. Again, I won’t go into details but these paved the way for the web we know and love today.

The big turning point came, as I mentioned yesterday, with the creation of the first easy to use web browser, Mosiac, created with money funded by the Gore Bill.

The important factor here is that Sir Tim didn’t charge anyone for any of this. He released the information freely unto the public where everyone immediately began to contribute and the WWW was truly born. If you had to pay a fee for every transfer of information, above and beyond your carrier fee, there is no way the WWW would have sprung to life so quickly.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for a capitalistic libertarian like myself but there is something to be said for the Open Source movement as far as getting tools into the hands of those who can make the best use of them. I’m going to talk more about Open Source later in the week. You can hardly wait, I’d bet!

Sir Tim went on to fund the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which currently sets the standards for the web and I’ll tak about that later in the week as well.

For today, I’ll wrap it up with a tribute to Sir Tim. Without him the internet would not exist today and we all have him to thank. So, if you’ve never heard of him take a moment follow my link to the Wikipedia article or at the very least say, “Thanks, Sir Tim,” when you open your web browser to go about your daily business.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

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