The World Wide Web – Pioneering Years

It would be very hard to imagine the world without the World Wide Web. If we woke up one morning and it was gone, I am sure the civilised world would come to a complete standstill, and one or two of us would be out of work. But relatively, the World Wide Web has only been around for a short amount of time. So I thought it would be a good idea to give you a very brief history of the early years of the Web – how it Began 1989 – 2003.

March 1989

I suppose the roots of the World Wide Web can be traced back to the unveiling of the first electric telegraph in 1831, the facsimile in 1843, the very first telephone conversation in 1914 and the launch of the Sputnik in 1957. But the can accurately be narrowed down to March 1989 when a British born computer scientist by the name of Tim Berners-Lee, who was working for CERN in Geneva, Switzerland wrote a paper titled ‘Information Management: A Proposal’. This document would completely change the world as we knew it.

The paper illustrated a way to manage digital information by using a ‘hypertext’ method of linking relevant documents to each other using a computer network

It listed:

  • Remote access to computer networks
  • Cross system cohesion (called “Heterogeneity” in the proposal)
  • No centralisation – allowing nodes to be created where they were required
  • Access to all data
  • Bookmarking (called “Private Links”)
  • And more…

The ‘Proposal’ is very similar to the methods used to link together pages across the World Wide Web today.

October 1990

To achieve his goal, Berners-Lee teamed up with Belgium born Robert Cailliau in October 1990, and they set to work on a prototype called the ‘WorldWideWeb’ (this name was later modified to accommodate the spaces between the words). This system allowed users to view and edit pages by using the ‘WorldWideWeb Browser’ (this name was also changed at a later date to Nexus). The browser was very limited compared to the ones we use today and was only able to display text. Images would have to wait.

February 1993

The Web would remain a text only environment until the beginning of February 1993 when a USA born computer programmer, Marc L. Andeessen, developed and released the Mosaic Web Browser for the Unix X-Windows operating system. This browser had the capabilities to display graphics on the Web for the first time.

Early 1994

Interest in the World Wide Web increased and NETCOM jumped on the bandwagon by releasing a package called the Netcruiser (this had been originally named the Internet) for the Microsoft Windows 3.1 platform. Netcruiser allowed users to access the Web and came packaged with a browser that resembled the Mosaic and further enhanced the World Wide Web’s graphical capacity.

In March 1994, Marc L. Andreesen and some of his fellow colleagues left NCSA to form Mosaic Communications Corp. (later to be renamed Netscape Communications).

Late 1994

In the fall of 1994 the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was formed by Tim Berners-Lee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT/LCS). The W3C were assisted by the European Commission and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who had been a pioneering force in the development of the actual Internet.

The W3C was established to act as a virtual police force and oversee the development and implementation of new World Wide Web standards.

1994 to 2003

Between 1994 and 2003 revised versions of ‘Hyper Text Mark Up Language’ (HTML) were developed and released. XML and XHTML 1.0 were then introduced to further enhance the users experience and capabilities on the Web.

This period of time also saw the battle between Netscape and Microsoft to produce the most consistent Web browser experience. This bitter struggle was eventually won by Bill Gates’ Microsoft, who bundled their Internet Explorer Web Browser with their dominant Windows Operating System.

The World Wide Web enjoyed sustained growth and popularity as more and more people were able to gain access to it through the internet. Even these days, many surfers do not realise that the World Wide Web and the Internet are two different things.

December 2003

In December 2003, Tim Berners-Lee was awarded the CBE for his pioneering work with the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web has transformed the world we now live in and has had a major affect on millions of people all around the world and it all evolved from a paper written in 1989 by a man born in London.