Thursday, November 11, 2010

The WorldWideWeb

The World-Wide Web is apparently 20 years old.

Okay, the whole interconnected computers thing (i.e the Internet), hypertext and the idea of publicly sharing information is somewhat older than that. But the beginnings of what we know as the web started 20 years ago at CERN when Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau published a proposal to build a hypertext project called the "WorldWideWeb" on 12th November 1990. (I am aware that they celebrated the 20th anniversary of the WWW last year but the WWW was actually born at the end of 1990)

This surprises me. First, it seems older than that. And second I remember getting involved with the web during 1994 just 16 and a half years ago. Which meant the web was only 3 and a bit years old at the time. Of course, by involved I mean just using the months-old Mosaic web browser on the Sun Sparc-stations at Manchester University to look up stuff about superhero comicbooks and sci-fi TV shows. Not much has changed really...

Well, except the fact that, in those days, very few people had heard of the internet and the worldwide web. The average person on the street was unaware of this high-tech phenomenon waiting to happen. Even I didn't realise that the web would become such a everyday thing within 15 years time.

Unfortunately, my first web pages no longer seem to exist. They may be backed-up somewhere on one of the servers in Manchester Uni's Medical Biophysics department but I can't find them on the 'net. They existed before caching sites like Google and the Wayback Machine started. I think my old Tesco web page still exists though (which would never have won any awards for design and layout).

I learnt HTML all by myself and just used a basic text editor to write it - same as I do today. I even learnt VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) because I thought that would be the language of the future. Of course, the whole virtual reality bubble then popped (whatever happened to VR helmets?) not long after. Some of my PhD work was written in VRML.

Looking at the list of websites founded before 1995 on Wikipedia, I remember a number of these. Sites such as the Virtual Library (actually the East Anglia mirror index site), SunSITE, Doctor Fun, the coffee pot webcam, Lycos, and Yahoo (the premier search engine at the time - funny how no one says they'll "yahoo it" when searching for something on the web).

Anyway, happy birthday WWW!

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