(Source: Know Your Meme)
Two-decades ago WWW replaced Gopher and other more rudimentary protocols

Even as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is plotting a faster next generation internet, it is celebrating the past with a new post on the WorldWideWeb protocol, whose source code and software it launched royalty free twenty years ago to the public.

While many people think Al Gore "invented" the WorldWideWeb (due to his push for funding it in Congress), that distinction arguably goes to CERN and British physicist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Development on the WorldWideWeb (www) and its backing hypertext protocol (which created a "web" of links) began in 1989 under the leadership of Professor Berners-Lee.  At the time some hypertext protocols existed, but many were proprietary; thus other protocols like WAIS and Gopher were more commonly used to retrieve information in packets over networked computers.

Professor Berners-Lee hosted the worldwide web's first site himself on a NeXT computer (from Steve Jobs' short-lived startup).  The NeXT machine cost a whopping $6,500 at the time and came in a stylish cubic form factor.  Using the machine's advance capabilities, Professor Berners-Lee demoed how to run a www-based webserver, wrote a primitive browser for the protocol, and made a website showing its capabilities.  The website today has been revived by CERN to celebrate the landmark of WWW's royalty-free publication.

NeXT Berners-Lee
Prof. Berners-Lee poses in 1994 with his NeXT computer. [Image Source: CERN]

The NeXT browser software was then ported to a crude command-line style browser.  This browser worked on top of the email protocol.  You would email CERN with the URL -- the web address -- of the www-protocl page, and CERN would reply with a message with the page's context, that the command-line program would parse as text.  There were no graphics at first.

WWW software
Early software for WWW under development on Prof. Berners-Lee's NeXT PC.
[Image Source: CERN]

Soon rich-media browsers like Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Internet Explorer and the now-defunct Netscape Navigator popped up.  From there we were off to the races -- internet useage and website grew like a wildfire, transforming our day-to-day life.

In late 1993, there were around 500 web servers using WWW, which accounted for roughly 1 percent of web traffic.  Today there are 630 million sites that use the protocol

Describes Rolf Heuer, CERN Director-General, "There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the web.  From research to business and education, the web has been reshaping the way we communicate, work, innovate and live. The web is a powerful example of the way that basic research benefits humankind."

So congratulations, CERN, and happy birthday WorldWideWeb.  Sure CERN's other inventions like mankind's most expensive and complex piece of machinery -- the LHC particle collider -- are impressive.  But from creeping sloths to flying toaster cats, the internet is arguably a far greater triumph for the creativity of mankind.  Now back to viewing GIFs, readers.

Sources: CERN [1], [2]

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