The posting below is just about the best brief description I have seen
about the development of the World Wide Web. It is from: The Wired
Professor : A Guide to Incorporating the World Wide Web in College
Instruction, by Anne B. Keating with Joseph Hargitai. The excerpt is
taken from Chapter 1 A History of Information Highways and Byways, pp.
65-59. The publisher is New York University Press, copyright 1999,
reprinted with permission.
UP NEXT: A Juggling Act
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A BRIEF THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB
By 1980, students, computer science professors and other academics were the
main users of the Internet. Ten years later, this state of affairs changed
dramatically with the introduction of the World Wide Web. Within four years
of its introduction, the World Wide Web eclipsed the Internet. Ben Segal
notes that, "in the computer networking arena, a period of 10- 15 years
represents several generations of technology evolution." It is therefore
surprising "that in a period of only three years there can be developments
that radically change the whole way that people think about computer
communications. This has just happened with the Web (prototyped in 1990-1,
fully accepted over 1993-4) .
Describing the critical difference between the Internet and the Web, one
observer wrote: "the Web differs from the Internet, though it uses the Net as a
highway. Explore the Internet and you find computers, routers and cables.
Explore the Web and you find information. "" The critical differences
between the Internet and the World Wide Web are the use of "links" and the
presence of graphics and text together. Web browsers in the 1990s hid the
UNIX-based structure of the Internet under a layer of intuitive,
graphically rich user interface. This is what permitted many people
finally to use the Internet, much in the same way that the Windows
operating system revolutionized personal computing for the noncomputer
In 1979, Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist working as a
consultant at the Swiss particle physics laboratory (CERN) became
frustrated with the inability of his computerized schedule planner to link
between databases. His phone numbers were saved in one database, while his
stored in different databases. As a solution, he created a hypertext
computer program called Enquire-Within -Upon - Everything," which allowed
"links to be made between
arbitrary nodes. "' Although never published, "Enquire" became the
foundation for the
development of the Web. In 1984, Berners-Lee accepted a fellowship at CERN
to work on distributed real-time systems for the collecting and sorting of
scientific data. During this period he began to expand on the ideas in
Enquire and in 1989 proposed "a global hypertext project, to be known as
the World Wide Web."' His main motivation for the project came from the
fact that at CERN there was no easy way for his colleagues to access each
other's notes and documents. Software and hardware incompatibilities made
electronic collaboration almost impossible. He wanted to create a "global
information space" that would be an electronic version of the coffee area
where people at CERN gathered to exchange information and collaborate on
projects." In his proposal, he argued:
The hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could
grow and evolve with the organization and the projects it describes. For
this to be possible, the method of storage must not place its own
restraints on the information. This is why a "Web" of notes with links
(like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical
system. When describing a complex system, many people resort to diagrams
with circles and arrows. Circles and arrows leave one free to describe the
interrelationships between things in a way that tables, for example, do
not. The system we need is like a diagram of circles and arrows, where
circles and arrows can stand for anything. We can call the circles nodes,
and the arrows links."
We now call the circles "Web pages," while the
arrows remain "links." Berners-Lee went on to explain that
several programs have been made exploring these ideas, both commercially
and academically. Most of them use "hot spots' in documents, like icons, or
highlighted phrases, as sensitive areas. Touching a hot spot with a mouse
brings up the relevant information, or expands the text on the screen to
include it. Imagine, then, the references in this document, all being
associated with the network address of the thing to which they referred, so
that while reading this document you could skip to them with 86 a click of
In his personal notebook, Berners-Lee explored this idea further,
articulating an indexing system as follows:
Here are some of the many areas in which hypertext is used. Each area has
its specific requirements in the way of features required.
General reference data-encyclopaedia, etc.
Completely centralized publishing--online help, documentation,
More or less centralized dissemination of news which has a limited life
Collaborative design of something other
than the hypertext
He started work on this project in October 1990, and the program
"WorldWideWeb" was first made available within CERN in December 1990 and on
the Internet at large in the summer of 1991."
Berners-Lee recalls that "there were three communities of users-the alt.
hypertext Usenet newsgroup, Next [computer] users, and high-energy
physicists. People started putting up servers, often writing their own
software. This led to the development of various browsers."' Among the
althypertext users was a group of students at the University of Illinois.
Led by Marc Andreessen, they took Berners-Lee's program and added graphics
capability. Out of their experiments, they developed Mosaic in 1993. Mosaic
turned Berners-Lee's text-based browser into the fully graphical Web
browsers we are familiar with today. Andreessen went on to develop Netscape
Navigator, one of the leading Web browsers today.
Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
(NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was the first
public domain graphical Internet browser and turned the Internet into a
place where a user could just point and click to retrieve information. This
rapid growth of Internet. For Andreessen, the lack of an easy-to-use
graphically oriented interface for the Web was a critical omission. "There
was this huge hole in the world ... because a network existed with all
these people hooked up to it, and the software was 10 years behind the
hardware. This is typical of the personal computer industry today ...
perhaps because of people like me, "' Andreessen argued that this was
primarily due to the fact that programmers were daunted at the prospect of
designing and building hardware. "Therefore the machines outstrip our
capacity to use them.""
In the early 1990s, when Andreessen worked at the supercomputer center, he
Everyone at the center was hooked on the Internet, but there was this big
disconnect between the 'Net and the rest of the world. You basically needed
a Ph.D. in Unix to do anything. The Web existed then, but there were only
40 or 50 sites, and they were extremely hard to navigate. One of the other
students, Eric Bina, and I were talking about this over lunch one day. We
thought, wouldn't it be great if someone would sit down and write an
interface that would make the Internet really easy to use?
>From the very beginning, Andreessen and Bina disagreed with Berners-Lee
about the design for the Web interface:
We thought making this interface graphical was the key... Tim was looking
for a way to connect a bunch of high-energy physicists, and he thought
graphics were frivolous, unnecessary, and destructive. We didn't see it
that way-we thought the information you see should be the interface. We
wanted users to take over as much of the screen as possible and just put a
navigational framework around that."
They released the first beta version of Mosaic in March 1993. Andreessen
recalls that, though initially there were only twelve users, "Within a few
months we had 40,000 or 50,000. It was incredible. I graduated in December
1993 and ... we started Netscape in April.""
The release of Mosaic marked the beginning of the widespread use of the
Web. Within a few years, the Internet was transformed from a small,
informal gathering place for technically oriented users to a sprawling
global gathering place for individuals who daily added to the wealth of
information on the Web.
RESEARCH LINKS AND RESOURCES
1. In order to explore Telnet, you will need to get the Telnet program or
"client.' TeInet clients are available for free or as shareware from
Tucowsat http:11wwwtucows.com and Sharewarecom at http.11www.shareware.com.
2. To find libraries (and other resources) available via Telnet, look
through the Hytelnet database, available online at http:llwww. cam. ac.
3. For available resources on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), see IRC Central at
4. For general information on Internet chat, see David Barbieri's Meta
Chats: The Internet Chat Resource Guide at http:11www.2meta.com1chats1.
Barbieri has a listing of historic IRC logs at
5. Directory of Scholarly and Professional E-Conferences at
httP:11n2h2.com1KOVACS1 is a database of academic listservs which can be
searched by keyword, by subject or alphabetically by listserv name.
6. Usenet can be searched using any of the top search engines or by going
to Deja News at http:11www.dejanews.com1.
7. To search Usenet postings, use Where is the archive for newsgroup X? at
8. Liszt, the Mailing List Directory at http:11wwwlisztcom1, another
listing of newsgroups, "is basically a mailing-list spider; it queries
servers from around the world and compiles the results into a single
directory. This method ensures that the data Liszt provides is always
up-to-date, since it comes direct from the list servers each week .
Includes an education category.
9. World Wide Web Consortium at http.11wwww3.org, directed by Tim
Berners-Lee, is an open forum of companies and organizations with the
mission of realizing the full potential of the Web. "Services provided by
the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide
Web for developers and users; reference code implementations to embody and
promote standards; and various prototype and sample applications to
demonstrate use of new technology.""
10. An Atlas of Cyberspaces at http:llwwwcybergeographyorglatiaslatias.htmI
is an online atlas to the Internet and the Web. This collection of maps is
a good way to visualize the "new digital landscapes on our computer screen
and in the wires of the global communications networks.'