Print 27 comment(s) - last by Azethoth.. on May 3 at 10:07 PM

  (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]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Uh, no.
By Solandri on 4/30/2013 3:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
The browser was invented in Illinois at NCSA as a HFS file viewer 4 years later, but NNTP was intermachine and predated Berners-Lee by 3 years. There were MANY heavy users, but combining documents (Berners), news (NNTP), data and viz (Mosaic) is the basis for the www.

Not sure why you're citing NNTP. NNTP was a store-and-forward distribution system (heck, so was email initially) because most systems back in those days weren't connected to the Internet 24/7. They'd make a dialup connection every few hours or once a night and exchange updated data. Like FidoNet on BBSes, the updated data would propagate outwards like ripples in a pond until it had reached the whole world. News (the service which used NNTP) is like a distributed web forum, with copies stored on every computer in the world, and NNTP is the protocol used to synchronize all those different copies, neighbor to neighbor, like a great big game of telephone. This distribution methodology is still used in DNS and (in a more abstract sense) bittorrent.

HTTP (the protocol used for the WWW) was in many ways the very antithesis of NNTP. HTTP requires a direct connection between the client and server. There is only one authoritative copy, and initially there was no way for the client to modify the copy on the server. FTP, Archie, Veronica, Gopher, and WAIS were the predecessors to the WWW, not News. All of those required you to connect to a server, request a list of files, decide which you want and ask the server for that file, and the server would send it back to you in response.

What the WWW did differently was combine the two - instead of the files and the list of files being different things, the WWW does not distinguish between them. They're both data sent to you via HTTP. It's like how the menu and food you order from the menu are different. But then one day the Star Trek replicator is invented, and someone realizes the menu and food are now just the same thing and can be handled the same way. You're no longer locked into getting the complete menu first, then picking which food to order. Dining becomes more like a choose your own adventure story. You start picking an appetizer from an appetizer menu, and the appetizer itself contains your menu of choices for recommended entrees based on your appetizer choice, and the entree contains your menu of recommended choices for dessert.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki