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Search for 1st Web page takes detour into US

Jeffrey Collins (via AP/ SMH) | June 11, 2013
For the European physicists who created the World Wide Web, preserving its history is as elusive as unlocking the mysteries of how the universe began.

The Internet itself dates back to 1969, when computer scientists gathered in a lab at the University of California, Los Angeles to exchange data between two bulky computers. In the early days, the Internet had email, message boards known as Usenet and online communities such as The WELL.

Berners-Lee was looking for ways to control computers remotely at CERN. His innovation was to combine the Internet with another concept that dates to the 1960s: hypertext, which is a way of presenting information nonsequentially. Although he never got the project formally approved, his boss suggested he quietly tinker with it anyway. Berners-Lee began writing the software for the Web in October 1990, got his browser working by mid-November and added editing features in December. He made the program available at CERN by Christmas.

These days, many people see the Internet and the Web as one and the same, even though the Web is just one of the many functions of the Internet. Personal email tends to be conducted over Web-based systems such as Yahoo and Google's Gmail. Web-based message boards have replaced the need for Usenet. Friendster, Myspace and later Facebook emerged as go-to places on the Web for hanging out. People now use the Web to find dates, watch television shows, catch up on the news, pay bills and play games. Many more services are still being invented.

In less than a quarter-century, the Web has turned into an easy way to retrieve data on just about any topic from just about any computer in the world with just the click of a link. It has become the equivalent of millions of libraries at the fingertips of anyone with a Web browser and a network connection. The resources have made it far more difficult for authoritarian regimes to keep information from their citizens.

Berners-Lee's office was a few corridors down from Noyes at CERN's headquarters in Geneva. Nearby is a plaque honoring him for his innovation. Noyes recently brought his 14-year-old son and showed it to him.

"For him, it was a concept that doesn't make any sense," Noyes said. "It's no fault of his own, but he can't imagine the world without the Web."

Attempts to reach Berners-Lee through CERN were unsuccessful.

That's part of why Noyes believes it is important to round up the World Wide Web's history. He said it represents the best of how science and free governments can make the world a better place. And the quest for the first Web page reminds him of CERN's main goal _ seeking answers about the universe using tools such as the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, where high-energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.

 

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