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3/12/2014
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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Web Turns 25: 10 Graphics To See

Tim Berners-Lee's proposal changed the world. These visual representations show what his World Wide Web has become.
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The World Wide Web turns 25 today, March 12, 2014, and despite what you may have heard, it's good for you. Nevermind the malware, the fraud, the trolls, the porn, the flames, the misinformation, the surveillance, the hate speech, and the rickrolling, time-wasting, fatuous social stew that passes for human interaction. We have only ourselves to blame for that.

The Web has become an indispensable communications medium, capable of conveying content that ranges from banal to brilliant, from silly to sublime. It has become an interface for democratic participation, for commerce, for science, for health, for advertising, and for entertainment. It is a doorway to connection and to contention. It is an economic engine.

The Web is not the Internet, though many people believe they're the same thing. Type "25th anniversary of the" into Google and its autocomplete algorithm will suggest "25th anniversary of the Internet" before "25th anniversary of the World Wide Web."

This may be in part because there was a celebration of 25th anniversary of the Internet in 2006. It was a recognition of the formal standardization of the Internet Protocol (IP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), through publication of RFC 791 and RFC 793, in September 1981. But you could choose other relevant dates to celebrate, like January 1, 1983, when the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, switched from NCP to the TCP/IP protocols.

The Internet, as a network of networks, doesn't have a single point of origin; rather, it has many milestones. And the same can be said of the Web: Some readers may recall that last year we celebrated the Web's 20th anniversary, based on the first webpage, published by CERN in 1993.

The Web was built atop the Internet, based on a proposal written March 12, 1989, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The Web is a way to present information -- text, images, and sounds --from within a software application called a Web browser, through HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

"On the Net, the connections are cables between computers; on the Web, connections are hypertext links," explains Berners-Lee on his website. "...The Web made the Net useful because people are really interested in information (not to mention knowledge and wisdom!) and don't really want to have know about computers and cables."

Berners-Lee released the first Web browser, called "WorldWideWeb" before it was renamed "Nexus," in late December 1990. Other browsers followed, most notably NCSA Mosaic 1.0, released on April 22, 1993, the first browser to display text and images together on the same page.

That changed everything. It opened a world previously inhabited by computer experts to the less technically inclined, even if many of those people subsequently retreated from the Web toward the simplicity of a social network that offers a single, commercially friendly form of expression: the "Like" button.

So here's to the Web and to hoping it survives the app-centric mobile revolution. Take a look at what Sir Tim hath wrought.

Image credit: NielsAD

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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matinintoronto
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matinintoronto,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 12:43:43 PM
Huge advance has come with an unintended cost
Centuries ago the world was represented on maps with a centre somewhere ... Jerusalem, Mecca, London.  Maps and routes were carefully and jealously guarded, kept secret in rutters and company or imperial vaults. People who had access to these secrets could have an enlarged vision of the world, themselves and their place (literally and figureatively) in and on it.

Now the centre is ME ...each person who has access to the net becomes the centre of their own world, and defines it as they choose (subject to advertising, I suppose!).  This has both enabled us and disabled us at the same time.  We may now hear about events, places, things and trends, but are more and more dis-associated from them except in a superficial way because of a diminishment of a shared vision or experience that put us all, individually or our group, in a place that was relative to other places.

There certainly is something to be said for understanding the world in ways that are not exclusively rooted in ME.
AndrewO330
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AndrewO330,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 12:47:23 PM
It goes back a lot further than that.
Although Tim Berners-Lee gets the credit, much of the underlying innovation that we know as the "World Wide Web" goes back a lot further.  The origin of the idea of linked text and images probably lies with Vannevar Bush, who suggested the idea in an article titled "As We Will Think" in 1945.  His "memex" was based on automated (we'd say computerized) microfilm machines that switched from one fiche to another when you selected a link.

Later, Ted Nelson coined the word "hypertext" and, because computers filled rooms, not pockets,  envisioned a nation-wide set of information outlets, kind of like McDonalds for information, where you could drive up and get access to hyperlinked information.  He called his project Xanadu, and when I took a class with him at Swarthmore (his alma mater) in 1975/6 he already had it pretty well defined.

Tim Berners-Lee deserves credit for creating the structure that helped make the Web a reality, but let's not forget the others whose work he built upon.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
3/12/2014 | 1:11:17 PM
Bigger Images?
Interesting article. It would have been cool to be able to click to larger versions of some of those images. Legends and such were too small to make out on some. I tried clicking them but that just gets me a new window of the same page.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
3/12/2014 | 1:38:45 PM
Re: Huge advance has come with an unintended cost
I must say, I love the part about the amount of social junk floating around on the web today. Really, who could have thought that would ever happen?

It's a social construct that we have created ourselves, a new form of passive entertainment sure to supplant that of television at some point in time. 
gfcorbett
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gfcorbett,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 1:38:46 PM
WWW
Let's also give credit to the U.S. Government and DOD.  I started using the Web in 1970 to write curvefit programs at NASA Ames on what was termed "Darpanet."  Government agencies, institutions and universities had access.  Berners et al made it accessible to the masses.
ANON1245980384322
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ANON1245980384322,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 1:42:31 PM
Re: WWW
Using the "web" in 1970 would quite a trick, since it wasn't invented until 1989.  I think you meant you were using the Internet in 1970.  Commonly confused, the Web and Internet are not the same.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 1:51:44 PM
TCP and the Internet
No question, Tim Berners-Lee's work launched the Web as we've come to know it -- but as many will add, what he created stands on the shoulders of those who helped create the Arpanet.

I've had the good fortune to spend time with both Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Hearing them retell their stories still evokes a certain awe. It's hard to fully fathom what we do online and on our smartphones today began with the discovery of how to harness packet switching -- that made it possible for heterogeneous computers to talk to each other through a single common packet-switched network.

They showed how it was possible to create a neary infinite number of different heterogeneous packet-switched nets, as Cerf called them, to interconnect with each other as if it was all one big giant network. As Cerf later put it, "TCP (transmission control protocol) is the thing that makes the Internet the Internet."  

Hail and Happy Anniversary to Berners-Lee for unleashing the Internet for the rest of the world to use.
dwebb608
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dwebb608,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2014 | 2:45:48 PM
Re: WWW
"The Web" didn't just suddenly happen in 1989 (nor was it "invented" by Al Gore).  What happened then is that a structure and a name was given to what was already in existance (highly-interconnected infrastructure, the concept of hypertext links, etc.).  The Internet didn't exist back in 1970, either.  Its ancestor (ARPANET) did.  It has been a gradual evolution involving many inventions over the years with the origin in the development of TCP that allowed multiple widely separate computer systems to communicate.  If you look back to the age of the original progenitors, the Web would be eligible for AARP membership.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 3:04:49 PM
The 13%
I'm going to print up a T-shirt for my mother: One Of The Proud 13%
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/12/2014 | 4:00:35 PM
Re: TCP and the Internet
I'm inclined to agree, Wyatt. TCP/IP should be celebrated too.
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