23rd Anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s Announcement of the WWW on Usenet

Tim Berners-Lee

Today is an important date in the history of both usenet and the world-wide-web. On August 6, 1991 Tim Berners-Lee (while working at CERN in Switzerland) announced his idea for the WorldWideWeb on the usenet group alt.hypertext. The post was one of the most important steps in bringing the modern communication age into existence.

Tim Berners-Lee’s Original Post

The following is a copy of the original post (minor formatting changes made).

In article <64…@cernvax.cern.ch> I promised to post a short summary of the WorldWideWeb project. Mail me with any queries.

WorldWideWeb – Executive Summary

The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system.

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.

Reader view

The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (“virtual”) document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (“HTTP”) is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.

The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme.

To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.

Information provider view

The WWW browsers can access many existing data systems via existing protocols (FTP, NNTP) or via HTTP and a gateway. In this way, the critical mass of data is quickly exceeded, and the increasing use of the system by readers and information suppliers encourage each other.

Making a web is as simple as writing a few SGML files which point to your existing data. Making it public involves running the FTP or HTTP daemon, and making at least one link into your web from another. In fact, any file available by anonymous FTP can be immediately linked into a web. The very small start-up effort is designed to allow small contributions. At the other end of the scale, large information providers may provide an HTTP server with full text or keyword indexing.

The WWW model gets over the frustrating incompatibilities of data format between suppliers and reader by allowing negotiation of format between a smart browser and a smart server. This should provide a basis for extension into multimedia, and allow those who share application standards to make full use of them across the web.

This summary does not describe the many exciting possibilities opened up by the WWW project, such as efficient document caching. the reduction of redundant out-of-date copies, and the use of knowledge daemons. There is more information in the online project documentation, including some background on hypertext and many technical notes.

Try it

A prototype (very alpha test) simple line mode browser is currently available in source form from node info.cern.ch [currently] as /pub/WWW/WWWLineMode_0.9.tar.Z.

Also available is a hypertext editor for the NeXT using the NeXTStep graphical user interface, and a skeleton server daemon.

Documentation is readable using www (Plain text of the instalation instructions is included in the tar file!). Document http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html is as good a place to start as any. Note these coordinates may change with later releases.

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