Web turns 25: 8 things to know

 Imagining life without Google, Facebook and Twitter is almost impossible today. But, internet itself was a dark reality until 25 years ago. It was on March 12, 1989 that the world wide web (www) was born, thus marking its 25th birth anniversary today. But it was only in the mid-90s that web came into public life and changed the world in so many ways than one could have imagined.

According to web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, it was invented for very different reasons. On its silver jubilee, here’s everything you need to know about the web …

Birth of web
The world wide web (www) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee – a British scientist at CERN – on March 12, 1989. The original idea behind the web was to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists working at universities and institutes around the world by merging technologies of personal computers, computer networking and hypertext into a powerful and easy-to-use global information system.

The proposal
Tim Berners-Lee teamed up with Belgian systems engineer Robert Cailliau and presented the first proposal for www in 1989. In the following year, on November 12, 1990, the duo published a formal proposal highlighting all the important concepts behind the web.

The proposal described a “hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” in which a network of “hypertext documents” could be viewed by “browsers”. A prototype of the software for a basic web system was already being demonstrated. The first examples of this interface were developed on Apple’s NeXT computers.

The first website
European research organization CERN was the birthplace of web or www. The first website at CERN was also the first website in the world. CERN dedicated the website to the “WorldWideWeb project” and it was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer.

The website had a simple interface and described the basic features of the web, how to access other people’s documents and how to set up your own server.

Image courtesy: CERN

First web server outside Europe
At Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California, the first web server out of Europe was installed on December 12, 1991. Then, in 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois launched Mosaic browser, which was easy to run and install on ordinary PCs and Macintosh computers.

Web goes public
It was April 30, 1993 when CERN put the world wide web software in the public domain. To increase its reach, CERN made the next releases available with an open licence along with a basic browser and a library of codes.

By the end of 1994, the web had 10,000 servers – of which 2000 were commercial – and 10 million users.

The line-mode browser
The browser which Berners-Lee had designed on his NeXT computer was far too advanced and complicated for other computers of that time and thus there was a need for a much simpler browser that could work with a wide variety of computers and terminals, some of them rather basic. The line-mode browser was nothing but a compilation of links. No images, no colours, no clicking – it was just content. The browser was so simple that even a computer with a screen only capable of showing 24 rows of 80 characters could run it. For a modern audience, it was an unimpressive medium.

Tech prediction goes wrong
“Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the internet’s continuing exponential growth. But I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova, and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” These were the words of Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of the Ethernet and founder of 3Com. His prediction turned out to be far from accurate, as the world wide web continues to not only grow but drive big changes across the globe.

Web is not internet
Many of us confuse the two and believe web and internet are same. However, the truth is that web is not internet. The internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks. It is a ‘path’ on which the web runs.

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