Tim Berners-Lee Overview ‧ read
So who is Tim Berners-Lee, how did he come to invent the Web, and what’s he doing now? Here’s our biography, with all the answers.
Tim Berners-Lee’s early life
Tim Berners-Lee was born in London, England in 1955. He liked trainspotting, and learned about electronics by playing with model railways. Later he studied at the world-renowned Queen’s College, Oxford University. Berners-Lee graduated with a first class degree in physics.
At university, he followed in his parents’ footsteps by building his own computer “using a soldering iron and an old television set.”
‘Enquire’: Berners-Lee’s 1980 hypertext experiment
Enquire used hypertext to link phrases in one document to other, related documents. It was similar to how web page links work today. Berners-Lee didn’t invent hypertext - the idea had been around since the 1940s. But in 1980, hypertext systems relied on a centralized database to work. Berners-Lee would go on to change that.
Why Sir Tim invented the World Wide Web
So Berners-Lee submitted a proposal to CERN to “develop a radical new way of linking and sharing information over the internet.” That proposal document, called “Information Management: A Proposal,” outlined the structure for the Web.
Berners-Lee developed three important new systems to make the new Web work. Hypertext markup language (HTML) was the coding language for Web pages, which allowed content creators to format articles and add hyperlinks and media. Hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) was the system for retrieving documents. And universal resource locators (URLs) made web addresses like www.website.com possible.
These three systems, devised by Tim Berners-Lee, are still the bedrock of the World Wide Web today.
The world’s first website
You can still see it at http://info.cern.ch . It’s a little plain by today’s standards, but it’s a good place to learn more about how the Web was created.
Making the web better at the W3c
You might think that Tim Berners-Lee went on to be be a millionaire, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. But he didn’t. Instead, Berners-Lee has continued to devote his life to making sure our World Wide Web stays free and open.
In 1994 Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) . W3C is an international community that develops Web standards to make them better. HTML and HTTP have changed a lot since Berners-Lee invented them, but he’s still guiding their evolution.
Protecting the freedom of the web
Berners-Lee spoke out about the importance of online privacy in 2013, after NSA surveillance revelations.
“Increased monitoring powers is something which is a red flag... this discussion is a global one, it’s a big one, it’s something that people are very engaged with, they think it’s very important, and they’re right, because it is very important for democracy.”He has also publicly supported net neutrality. “There’s this huge corporate pushback,” he said in 2014 at the time of the Battle for the Net. “We've got to use this year to get to a peak of understanding, public awareness and not taking it for granted.”
Arise, Sir Tim Berners-Lee
We couldn’t agree more. Maybe the internet would still be around without Tim Berners-Lee. But it wouldn’t be as interesting, as accessible, as colourful or as diverse. The World Wide Web has made lots of the most exciting things on the internet possible. And we have one man to thank for it.
Thank you from everyone, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Featured image: “Tim Berners-Lee” by ITU Pictures is lice