Celebrating 25 years

David Cameron talks to Tim Berners-Lee in the red and gold throne room at Buckingham Palace

11 March 2014


In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal that would become the World Wide Web, and then went on to write the first web browser, server and web page. He has since won a number of different awards, including the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

Wednesday 12 March 2014 marks the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web. Created in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee while he was working at CERN, the web would become one of the most ubiquitous and important elements of the world we live in. But we take it for granted much of the time, not realising that it is a remarkable feat of engineering that has given rise to countless new technologies. This feature is a celebration of how the web has changed the world and where the world was when the web came into existence.

To start with, let's take a quick tour through the mechanics: The World Wide Web is not the Internet. The Internet is a network of networks that connects billions of computers together globally. The World Wide Web is an information-sharing model built on top of the internet. It allows us to use the Internet easily and efficiently by allowing any document on the internet to link to another document. We call these pages.

More specifically, the web is a system of interlinked 'hypertext' documents accessed via the Internet. Berners-Lee did not invent the hypertext systems but, crucially, proposed that they could be used 'to link and access information... which a user can browse at will'.His breakthrough was to link hypertext to the Internet and he developed three technologies to do this: web addresses or a Universal Resource Locator (URL) to reference a web resource; Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) which is the foundation of data communication for the web; and HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is the main mark-up language for creating web pages and information that can be displayed on a web browser.

Berners-Lee initially intended that his invention would facilitate the exchange of research papers, which seems almost comical today. There are an estimated 2.12 billion web pages in existence. We're adding one more with this post! Happy Birthday, World Wide Web!

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