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Happy Birthday WWW 1991

Image 1 TimBern leeCERN02 WEB
Image 2  Caption original image drawn by TBL
Image 3 Caption  Tim-Berners-Lee Man of vision
Image 4 Caption NeXT Editor BW WEB
Image 5 screensnap2 24cWEB

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday 20th birthday dear  WWW

Celebrating the thought process of Tim Berners-Lee.   Is it already 20 years since Tim Berners-Lee authored "Information Management: A proposal" and set the technology world on fire? 

In 1989, PCs were still a novelty for many businessmen, and at that point, how many people outside of universities or scientific circles had ever heard of something called the Internet?

What Tim gave birth to was the World Wide Web, and thus, eventually, Facebook, eBay, Google, iTunes, YouTube, Pets.com, blogs....

How different things are today. Now Facebook has inspired an Oscar nominated film, creating 3 or more billionaires.  Google is used millions of times a day!

Back in 1989, Berners-Lee was a software consultant working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research situated just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. 

On March 13 of that year (1989), he submitted a plan to management on how to better monitor the flow of research at the labs. People were coming and going at such a clip that an increasingly frustrated Berners-Lee complained that CERN was losing track of valuable project information because of the rapid turnover of personnel. It did not help matters that the place was chock-a-block with incompatible computers people brought with them to the office.

"When two years is a typical length of stay, information is constantly being lost. The introduction of the new people demands a fair amount of their time and that of others before they have any idea of what goes on. The technical details of past projects are sometimes lost forever, or only recovered after a detective investigation in an emergency. Often, the information has been recorded, it just cannot be found."

So he got to work on a document, which is amazing to read with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. But it would take Berners-Lee another couple of years before he could demo his idea. Even then, the realisation of his theory had to wait until the middle of the 1990s when Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen popularised the notion of commercial Web browsing with Netscape.

 

Original image drawn by TBL

The internet is now woven seamlessly into our every-day lives, but none of this would have been possible without the work of a gentleman from London.

  

 Tim Berners-Lee man of vision

Tim Berners-Lee built his first computer using a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television whilst he was a young man studying for a degree in Physics at Oxford University. On graduating he went on to work for companies involved in developing barcodes and data transfer technologies, but the world changed when he perfected his 1989 brainwave of the creation of a global information space.

Inspired by his then employers clunky internal communication system Berners-Lee imagined a tool that would allow researchers from across the world to access and gather information and data. Research could be made available in days rather than months and scientists from across the world could effortlessly contribute suggestions and input into other scientist’s findings speeding up the whole scientific process.

With all this in place Berners-Lee still had no official interest in the project, but he soldiered on, and in 1991 set up the first web server for his employer CERN. Info.cern.ch

 This was the address of the world's first-ever web site and web server, running on a NeXT computer at CERN.

Tim Berners-Lee's original World Wide Web browser

 

NeXT Editor BW

A screen shot taken from a NeXT computer running Tim Berners-Lee's original WorldWideWeb browser. It has taken a long time for technology to catch up with Berners-Lee's original vision. The first ever web browser was also an editor, making the web an interactive medium, the problem was that it only ran on the NeXTStep operating system. With recent phenomena like blogs and wikis, the web is beginning to develop the kind of collaborative nature that its inventor envisaged from the start.

 

 Tim Berners-Lee's original WorldWideWeb browser in 1993

This screen shot was taken in 1993 from a NeXT computer. As one can see, there is not much of a difference between these windows and the appearance of today’s browsers.

The first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, centred on information regarding the “World Wide Web project.” Visitors could learn more about hypertext, technical details for creating their own webpage, and even an explanation on how to search the Web for information. As interest from around the world increased and other people set up their own web servers. Berners-Lee linked all the web spaces to his own and the internet as we know it began to form.

Money Money Money

Unlike a lot of computer entrepreneurs mentioned earlier in this story.  Berners-Lee did not attempt to make money from his invention. He made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due, so that it could easily be adopted by anyone. In 2008 he became the Director of the World Wide Web Foundation in an effort to fund and coordinate efforts to further the potential of the Web to benefit society.

His breakthrough came when he spotted the global potential of the small networks used by the military and computer scientists as a way of communicating.

He put the first website online in 1991, inventing a new language (HTML) HTTP, and URL to make it more accessible and easy for users to create pages.  The Worldwide Web (www) was his term. From its fledgling beginnings, there are now more than 1.4 billion internet users throughout the world.

Sir Tim was born in London in 1955, and later studied physics at Oxford University. He took early jobs as a software engineer and IT consultant, before starting his own computer systems company.

While working for Cern, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, in Switzerland, he had a vision of the internet as a way of sharing information. ( CERN is French for European Laboratory for Particle Physics)

He wanted his new network to be free, easy to use and unrestricted: concepts that still hold true today.

As the internet developed into a global phenomenon, Berners-Lee also pioneered the idea of the “read/write” internet page, where users could not just read content, but also amend or add to it, blogs and of course Wikipedia.

Tim Berners-Lee is a graduate of Oxford University, England, and currently holds the 3Com Founders chair at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He directs the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open forum of companies and organisations with the mission to lead the Web to its full potential through the development of Web technical standards, which he founded in October 1994.

With a background of system design in real-time communications and text processing software development, Tim invented the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first version of HTML, as well as the first web client (browser-editor) and server in 1990.

Subsequent honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, the ACM Software Systems Award, IEEE Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award, the Albert Medal of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Art, Manufactures and Commerce, the Japan Prize and the Finnish Millennium Technology Prize.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, and a Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers., a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2004, Tim was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

The Future

When this editorial is produced in digital form next week and the digital edition is put on our website www.europeanreseller.com All of these blue lines will actually link through to web sites WOW imagine that in 1990, many of our best geeks were not even born then!

  1. Web 2.0, calling it nothing more than meaningless jargon [source: Register]. Berners-Lee maintains that he intended the World Wide Web to do all the things that Web 2.0 is supposed to do.

Berners-Lee's vision of the future Web is similar to the concept of Web 3.0. It's called the Semantic Web. Right now, the Web's structure is geared for humans. It's easy for us to visit a Web page and understand what it's all about. Computers can't do that!

A search engine might be able to scan for keywords, but it can't understand how those keywords are used in the context of the page.

With the Semantic Web, computers will scan and interpret information on Web pages using software agents. These software agents will be programs that crawl through the Web, searching for relevant information. They'll be able to do that because the Semantic Web will have collections of information called ontologies. In terms of the Internet, an ontology is a file that defines the relationships among a group of terms. For example, the term "cousin" refers to the familial relationship between two people who share one set of grandparents.

A Semantic Web ontology might define each familial role like this:

  • Grandparent: A direct ancestor two generations removed from the subject
  • Parent: A direct ancestor one generation removed from the subject
  • Brother or sister: Someone who shares the same parent as the subject
  • Nephew or niece: Child of the brother or sister of the subject
  • Aunt or uncle: Sister or brother to a parent of the subject
  • Cousin: Child of an aunt or uncle of the subject

For the Semantic Web to be effective, ontologies have to be detailed and comprehensive.

In Berners-Lee's concept, they would exist in the form of metadata.

Metadata is information included in the code for Web pages that is invisible to humans, but readable by computers.

Constructing ontologies takes a lot of work. In fact, that's one of the big obstacles the Semantic Web faces. Will people be willing to put in the effort required to make comprehensive ontologies for their Web sites?

Will they maintain them as the Web sites change?

Critics suggest that the task of creating and maintaining such complex files is too much work for most people.

On the other hand, some people really enjoy labeling or tagging Web objects and information. Web tags categorise the tagged object or information. Several blogs include a tag option, making it easy to classify journal entries under specific topics. Photo sharing sites like Flickr allow users to tag pictures. Google even has turned it into a game: Google Image Labeler pits two people against each other in a labeling contest. Each player tries to create the largest number of relevant tags for a series of images. According to some experts, Web 3.0 will be able to search tags and labels and return the most relevant results back to the user. Perhaps Web 3.0 will combine Berners-Lee's concept of the Semantic Web with Web 2.0's tagging culture.

Even though Web 3.0 is more theory than reality, that hasn't stopped people from guessing what will come next.

Examples of the future.

You've decided you want to see a movie and grab a bite to eat afterward. You're in the mood for a comedy and some Jamaican Jerk. You go to your laptop, you open a Web browser and head to Google to search for cinema, movie and restaurant information. You need to know which movies are playing in the cinemas near you, so you spend some time reading short descriptions of each film before making your choice. Also, you want to see which local restaurants are close to each of these cinemas. And, you may want to check for customer reviews for the restaurants. In total, you visit half a dozen Web sites before you're ready to head out the door.

Down side

 Many of these experts believe that the Web 3.0 browser will act like a personal assistant. Remembering the things you search for on the Web, the browser learns and builds a picture  of what you are interested in. The more you use the Web, the more your browser learns about you and the less specific you'll need to be with your questions.

Eventually you might be able to ask your browser open questions like "where should I go for lunch?" Your browser would consult its records of what you like and dislike, take into account your current location and then suggest a list of restaurants.

It's easier to get the concept with an example. Let's say that you're thinking about going on a holiday. You want to go some where warm and tropical. You have set aside a budget of £2,000 for your trip. You want a nice place to stay, but you don't want it to take up too much of your budget. You also want a good deal on a flight.

With the Web technology currently available to you, you'd have to do a lot of research to find the best holiday options. You'd need to research potential destinations and decide which one is right for you. You might visit two or three discount travel sites and compare rates for flights and hotel rooms. You'd spend a lot of your time looking through results on various search engine results pages. The entire process could take several hours.

According to some Internet experts, with Web 3.0 you'll be able to sit back and let the Internet do all the work for you. You could use a search service and narrow the parameters of your search. The browser program then gathers, analyses and presents the data to you in a way that makes comparison a snap. It can do this because Web 3.0 will be able to understand information on the Web.

Right now, when you use a Web search engine, the engine isn't able to really understand your search. It looks for Web pages that contain the keywords found in your search terms. The search engine can't tell if the Web page is actually relevant for your search. It can only tell that the keyword appears on the Web page.

A Web 3.0 search engine could find not only the keywords in your search, but also interpret the context of your request. It would return relevant results and suggest other content related to your search terms. In our holiday example, if you typed "tropical vacation destinations under £2,000" as a search request, the Web 3.0 browser might include a list of fun activities or great restaurants related to the search results. It would treat the entire Internet as a massive database of information available for any query.

Your Life on the Web

If your Web 3.0 browser retrieves information for you based on your likes and dislikes, could other people learn things about you that you'd rather keep private by looking at your results? What if someone performs an Internet search on you?

Will your activities on the Internet become public knowledge? Some people worry that by the time we have answers to these questions, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

A new website - data.gov.uk - allows people to access 2,500 sets of official data, some of it never released before, from across British Government departments.

They include everything from crime rates, house prices and tidal predictions, to the numbers of thugs issued with anti-social behaviour orders and football hooligans living in people's areas.

Sir Tim, as we should call him, admitted the scale of the information available, which will eventually be searchable by postcode, will mean that social inequalities between different areas will quickly become apparent.

Is that a good thing or not?

No I am not talking to you I am talking to your big brother !  Europeanreseller Sept 2011