A General WWW History


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Based on a presentation by Domini Gee (Prezi presentation)

A general history of the WWW.


What is the World Wide Web?

The WWW is an information retrieval internet service that allows navigation between interlinked hypertext and hypermedia documents.

Conceptual Hypertext Roots

Paul Otlet's Monde

In 1895, Paul Otlet set out to create a master bibliography ofall the world???s published knowledge. With colleagues he collectedbooks, journal articles, photographs, posters, etc. and created apaper database of over twelve million individual entries. However,the sheer amount of information (not to mention choking amounts ofpaper) made traditional cataloguing methods impractical. He startedsketching out alternative idea management methods ideas in the1920s but realized the solution was to get replace paper withelectronic storage.

Otlet's 1934 book, Monde, outlined his "visionof a 'mechanical, collective brain' that would house allthe world???s information, made readily accessible over a globaltelecommunications network" (Wright, 2008). Through a networkof computers, users be able to browse through interlinkeddocuments, images, audio, and video files. Users would also be ableto send, share, or receive files and even congregate online.

Unfortunately, before Otlet's vision could become concrete,the government cut the project's funding. A small number ofstaff continued to work on the project until the Nazi invasion. TheNazis cleared out thousands of boxes of index cards to make roomfor a Third Reich Art exhibition, destroying much of Otlet'swork in the process.

Vannevar Bush's As We May Think

In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote As We May Think, often citedas one of an early, if not the earliest, roots of hypertext. Bushdescribes the Memex as a ???mechanized private file and library,[???] mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speedand flexibility??? (Bush, 1945). The Memex was never built but itwas intended to be a photo-electrical-mechanical device capable ofmaking and following links between documents on microfiche.

Bush conceived the Memex as a way to make accessible largeamounts of knowledge. The Memex would imitate the human mind,capable of linking nonlinear ideas through a web of associationsmore quickly and efficiently than traditional hierarchicalmethods.

Murray Leinster???s A Logic Named Joe

A year after Bush's article, Murray Leinster released a A Logic Named Joe. Leinster's short story depicted a world where every home has a logic (aka a computer terminal) with the potential for massive networking and dissemination of information but also for the drawbacks of information explosion.

Execution of Hypertext

Ted Nelson's A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate and Project Xanadu

Ted Nelson attempted one of the first hypertext projects,project Xanadu. He started Xanadu in 1960 with intentions ofcreating a machine that could store and display different versions.Xanadu wasn't released until 1998 (and was incomplete) but theideas inspired others and were the basis behind Nelson'shypertext theories.

Ted Nelson coined the term 'hypertext' in his 1965 paperto refer to non-sequential writing - text that branches and allowschoices in reading.

Douglas Engelbart's Mother of All Demos

Engelbart developed a hypertext system for browsing and editinginformation, in the process creating the computer mouse, in 1962.However, it wasn't until 1968 that these technologies weredemonstrated to the public.

The demonstration was retroactively named the Mother of AllDemos. It introduced many technologies common now, including thecomputer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext,word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic filelinking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor.However, it would be a while before all these possibilities wouldbecome accessible to the public.

Apple's Hypercard

In 1987, Apple released the Hypercard. Hypercard was one of thefirst successful hypermedia programs, combining database featureswith a graphical, flexible, user-modifiable interface. It was analmost instant hit and popularized the idea of hypertext to a largebase of users.

The Invention of the Web


Before the invention of the Web, hypertext/hypermedia ideas andtechnologies had been developed though few were successful. TimBerners-Lee and Robert Cailliau with their World Wide Web proposalwere the first to propose an open internet-based hypertexttechnology that was relatively simple to implement.

Berners-Lee first proposed the Web as a large hypertext databaseconnected by links at a CERN conference in 1989. In 1990, he puttogether a revised proposal with Cailliau that described hypertextas a way to link and access information of various kinds as a webof nodes that the user could browse at will. Rather than attemptingto store all the data in a single database, Berners-Lee andCailliau came up with a method that could allows users to navigateand add onto data.


By December 1990, the two finished building the tools needed for a working web:

  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language): The Publishing Language.
  • HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol): The application protocol for distribution collaborative, hypermedia information systems.
  • UDI/URL (Universal Document Identifier/Uniform Resource Locator): A system of globally unique identifiers.
  • Browser: Navigation display
  • Web server: To host websites.

The first three - HTML, HTTP, and URL - have proven to be essential technologies to the Web and are still in use. The first web browser however, the World Web Web, is no longer in use.

Rapid Growth

The Web was introduced to the public on August 6, 1991. Therewas only one web server, one web browser, little to no images, onegraphical browser exclusive to the most powerful computers, and afew webpages on the CERN server at the WWW's debut. However,interest and accessibility flourished.

Web servers and pages

Throughout 1991, web servers appeared in several institutions across Europe and the first server outside Europe was installed in December 1991. In November 1992 there were twenty six servers and the number jumped to over two hundred known web servers by October 1993.

During the same time, web sites went from fifty in 1992 to one hundred and fifty in 1993. By 2001, there were over twenty million web sites.


The first graphical web browser was built for CERN's NeXT computers, which were more powerful thanwhat the general public had access to. Within a few years therewere alternatives: the ViolaWWW [1] was the first to offer a popular and accessible alternative and Mosaic popularized the World Wide Web and several more have developed since then.

Organization of the Web

In April 1993, CERN announced that anyone could use the web protocol and code royalty-free. In 1994, Cailliau organized the first World Wide Web conference and Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web Consortium.

These steps were done to keep the Web accessible and royalty andpatent free while maintaining the Web's standards. Guidelinesand standards were created to maximize consensus about the contentof the Web, to ensure the technical and editorial quality, and toearn the endorsement of the W3C and the general public.



**Gregory Gromov: *Roads and Crossroads of the Internet History*
Murray Leinster: A Logic Named Joe';this.style.color = '#ff0000';" onMouseOut = "this.innerHTML = 'A Logic Named Joe';this.style.color = '#000000';">A Logic Named Joe
Wright, Alex. *The Web time forgot
Zeltser, Lenny. The World-Wide Web: Origins and Beyond


World Wide Web Consortium: http://www.w3.org/Proposal.html
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';this.style.color = '#000000';">World Wide Web Consortium: http://www.w3.org/Proposal.html

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