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
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."
"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
1First published in The Atlantic,
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.