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The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Ch. 17 ~ by Dr. Peter Salus
Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 09:04 AM EDT

Here is the next installment, Chapter 17 - "The Web", in our ongoing book by Dr. Peter Salus, The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin. Here are the earlier installments:

Dr. Salus references Tim Berners-Lee's book, "Weaving the Web, The original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web, by its inventor." If you would enjoy to read it, you can find a publisher in your language here. The blurb by the author begins like this: "This book is written to address the questions most people ask -- From 'What were you thinking when you invented it?' through 'So what do you think of it now?' to 'Where is this all going to take us?' -- this is the story."


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin

~ by Dr. Peter H. Salus

Chapter 17. The Web

Just what will inspire invention is infinitely variable.

Ted Nelson says that his notion of hypertext was inspired by Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think"1 and by S.T. Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan" (1798, published in 1816).

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee says that in his childhood home there was a book entitled Enquire Within upon Everything, a "musty old book of Victorian advice." What we now think of as the Web, was originally called "Enquire."2

The son of two mathematicians, Tim Berners-Lee took a degree in physics from Queens College Oxford and then worked for Plessey Telecommunications and D.G. Nash, prior to going to CERN as an independent contractor in 1980.

At CERN, Berners-Lee felt a need for researchers to locate and share information. Having read Ted Nelson's work, he determined that hypertext was the appropriate model to use. With the aid of Robert Cailliau, he set out to build a prototype system -- Enquire. But Berners-Lee left CERN at the end of 1980 to work for Image Computing Systems.

In 1984, Berners-Lee returned to CERN as a fellow and immediately went to work on CERN's Internet site, which by 1989 was the largest single site in Europe. He jumped at the opportunity of "marrying" the notion of hypertext and the Internet.

In Chapter 5, I outlined Lesk's development of uucp (1976) and the evolution of Netnews and the search engines (Gopher, archie, WAIS). What Berners-Lee was creating was the logical product of this decade's work by a variety of people. "I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and -- ta-da! -- the World Wide Web." 3

Berners-Lee envisaged knowledge as an immense reticulum, and so he named his creation the World Wide Web. To navigate within the Web, he designed and built the first browser (WorldWideWeb) and developed (on NextStep). The first server was called httpd (hyper text transfer protocol daemon). The new proposal for this was written on November 12, 1990; work was begun the next day. The tools were written over Christmas holiday 1990-91. The world learned about it on August 6, 1991, when Berners-Lee posted a summary of his project on alt.hypertext.

The Web is an information space in which items of interest ("resources") are tagged with global identifiers (Uniform Resource Identifiers [URIs]). The Web is not the Internet, it is a service operating on the Internet.

And on April 3, 1993, CERN announced that the code would be free, with no fee. This last was crucial, for the University of Minnesota had succeeded in dashing the enthusiasm for Gopher through the cold water of a fee.

The Internet was free. TCP/IP was free. UUCP was free. Gopher had no chance. The World Wide Web now did.

I'm certain that Vannevar Bush had no notion of the inspiration his 1945 article would provide: to Doug Englebart and Ted Nelson; to Tim Berners-Lee; to innumerable others. But what has been salient over these 60 years has been the notion of building on the previous constructs, which have been freely accessible.

Hypertext (in the sense most of us use it) has little to do with what Ted Nelson wrote about in the late 1960s and the 1970s. I asked Ted about the Web:

"Berners-Lee came to my office in 1992 and showed me what he'd done," he told me. "I was polite, didn't say I thought it was stupid, and took him to lunch. That was the extent of our interaction."

He continued:

"The web has nothing whatsoever to do with my notion of hypertext, and I am still fighting for what I believe in. Real Soon Now, I hope this month, I'll be announcing a new spec called Transliterature. Watch for it.

"What would I have to do with http?"

But hypertext was Ted's concept. It has been refashioned into something very different.

And I can't even buy a bar of soap that doesn't have a URL on it.

1First published in The Atlantic, January 1945

2Enquire Within... was one of the very many Victorian compendia. It was originally published in 1859 and went through over 100 printings and editions, the most recent of which was published in New York in 1978.

3For a truly personal view of this history, see Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web (1999).

Dr. Salus is the author of "A Quarter Century of UNIX" (which you can obtain here, here, here and here) and several other books, including "HPL: Little Languages and Tools", "Big Book of Ipv6 Addressing Rfcs", "Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Imperative Programming Languages", "Casting the Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and Beyond", and "The Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Functional, Concurrent and Logic Programming Languages". There is an interview with him, audio and video,"codebytes: A History of UNIX and UNIX Licences" which was done in 2001 at a USENIX conference. Dr. Salus has served as Executive Director of the USENIX Association.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Ch. 17 ~ by Dr. Peter Salus | 51 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
krections hear
Authored by: Griffin3 on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 09:34 AM EDT
Because it's traditional.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Ch. 18 ~ by Dr. Peter Salus
Authored by: akoma on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 10:06 AM EDT
Imagine that Ted Nelson would have patented hypertext ? Where whould have been
the WWW right about now?

Software patent foster innovation my a..!!

I have no insightfull things to say in my sign..

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic
Authored by: MathFox on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 10:32 AM EDT
A thread to collect the misc. stuff.
Please provide a summary when you post a link (HTML mode).

When people start to comment on the form of a message, it is a sign that they
have problems to accept the truth of the message.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank you Dr. Salus
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 10:44 AM EDT
I was the one who asked about the series in the comments of one of yesterday's
articles. Great to see the series back.

I can certainly appreciate other things competing for your time. Thank you for
taking the time to write this book, and thank you for sharing it with us. It is
an excellent piece of work.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ted Nelson failed because he didn't want anyone to give away anything
Authored by: dwheeler on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 12:02 PM EDT
Ted Nelson is a visionary, and his ideas certainly inspired others. But if I recall correctly, one of the key problems with Nelson's original vision was the extreme effort he took in ensuring that everyone could be a tollkeeper. Look at Nelson's work on "transclusion"; a work could incorporate other works (transclusion), and his idea was to try to embed tollbooths everywhere for all the pieces. As a result, his system was exceedingly complex. And as things scaled, it got increasingly difficult to understand as a user, too, as far as rights were concerned.

The world wide web is simple, because it does not try to do micropayments. Instead, people just send out information on request -- no figuring out who all the middlemen are, or embedding tollbooths in every car. Which makes things simple.

The same is true for the underlying TCP/IP. AT&T was not interested in TCP/IP, in part because they couldn't figure out how to charge for every packet. What they failed to realize was that the auditing and chargeback infrastructure was so large, that it exceeded the value gained by the chargeback infrastructure. By throwing out the massive auditing infrastructure, and simply doing "best-effort", everything was simplified so much that the resulting system actually outperformed its competition and at lower cost.

Sometimes, the cost of trying to manage payments (including the valuation as well as the exchange of goods and payment) far exceeds the value of what is being exchanged. That's particuarly likely to be true for small goods, or goods whose value is extremely difficult to determine before receiving them. It's easy to argue that this is why open source software development processes seem to work. It's difficult to value on a patch. Sometimes, the cost of exchanging things exceeds the value of what's being exchanged, so you either don't do it, or just give it away and don't worry about it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Ch. 18 ~ by Dr. Peter Salus
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 12:59 PM EDT
Surely Charles Goldfarb also deserves credit for his SGML Standrd?

[ Reply to This | # ]

A thermonuclear security flaw
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 05:45 PM EDT
Lets see. If a flaw in software lets someone have roiot access to my computer
and possible trash all my work files we call it a critical flaw. So what exactly
do we call a flaw that might permit a complete perversion of the democratic
process in an entire country. Hypercritical? Supercritical? How about

[ Reply to This | # ]

Kubla Khan
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 10:58 PM EDT
1798? 1816? Hmmm ... that just might be old enough to be in the public domain. ;-) Courtesy of a search at Project Gutenberg:
Kubla Khan

  In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  A stately
pleasure-dome decree:
  Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
  Through caverns
measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
  So twice five miles of fertile
  With walls and towers were girdled round:
  And here were gardens
bright with sinuous rills,
  Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
here were forests ancient as the hills,
  Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
  Down the green hill athwart a
cedarn cover!
  A savage place! as holy and enchanted
  As e'er beneath a waning
moon was haunted
  By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
  And from this chasm,
with ceaseless turmoil seething,
  As if this earth in fast thick pants were
  A mighty fountain momently was forced:
  Amid whose swift
half-intermitted burst
  Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
  And 'mid these dancing rocks at
once and ever
  It flung up momently the sacred river.
  Five miles meandering
with a mazy motion
  Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
  Then reached
the caverns measureless to man,
  And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
  Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
      Floated midway on the waves;
was heard the mingled measure
      From the fountain and the caves.
  It was a
miracle of rare device,
  A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

damsel with a dulcimer
      In a vision once I saw:
      It was an Abyssinian
      And on her dulcimer she played,
      Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me.
      Her symphony and song,
      To such a deep
delight 'twould win me,
  That with music loud and long,
  I would build that
dome in air,
  That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
  And all who heard should
see them there,
  And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
  His flashing eyes, his
floating hair!
  Weave a circle round him thrice,
  And close your eyes with
holy dread,
  For he on honey-dew hath fed,
  And drunk the milk of

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Daemon, the GNU and the Penguin, Ch. 18 ~ by Dr. Peter Salus
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 16 2005 @ 08:30 AM EDT
Anyone else think this needs its own link on the left-hand menu?

I just bothered to read the prevous chapters, and wanted to note, that A/UX is
definitly one of the most "interesting" unicies Ive encounted. it is
quite a unique experence to use (I have a Apple quadra with it installed).


[ Reply to This | # ]

Clagging up the commons
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, September 18 2005 @ 06:41 AM EDT
Proprietary software is going through a 'clagging up the commons' problem; sort-of the reverse of the 'tragedy of the commons' that some think free software will suffer from.

As more and more 'enslaved' software gets created, the total resource available for people who want to buy licenses to use it remains roughly constant. So you would think the price of a software license would go down.

However, proprietary software owners tend not to like that; particularly M$-types who are in positions of power. So they lobby for more and more draconian laws to protect themseleves at the expense of others.

IBM-types see this as natural evolution; OS/2 is copyright but has no value ... costs more to maintain than it would being in in licensing revenue. So it is put quietly to sleep.

IBM also cannot ship 'free' software, at least other people's free software. The risk that it might inadvertantly contain something subject to an increasingly-draconian law, when IBM is one of the few organizations left in town who could pay, is just too great. It can't be taken. IBM cannot even give the free stuff to charities and schools.

It's a tragedy.

IBM lends Novell $50M to buy SuSE. IBM buys GlueCode to turn it from other people's GPL software to IBM GPL software, which it will take the risk of shipping. IBM offers 100 employees to become maths/science teachers to alleviate the 6 million person skill shortage that is about to hit town. IBM tries.

But you have got to sort out the laws. Start with the anti-trust one. Make it bite.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • OS/2 - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 19 2005 @ 11:51 PM EDT
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