Sir Tim Of The Web

Twenty-five years ago, a quiet man called Tim changed the world. On the face of it, his idea for improving information management at a Swiss particle physics laboratory (CERN) might not seem like the type of earth-shattering invention that might change the lives of everyone on the planet. But generation-defining innovations rarely arrive with fireworks and fanfares, they emerge quietly in back rooms and labs. In this case, the idea had even more unlikely beginnings: Tim sent it in a humble memo that stayed in his boss’s in-tray for months. Today, fortunately for us, that man is known as Sir Tim Berners-Lee – or ‘TimBL’ – the man who invented the World Wide Web, the ‘www’ that appears in your browser window. It’s the dynamic linkage of documents, including text, images, video or sound, to other documents over the global network of computers we call the internet.

“It seems incredible to me that it was 25 years ago that I wrote that memo about the World Wide Web,” he said at the IP EXPO event in October, where CIS met the great man. “I had this idea, this itch. I wrote the memo about it in 1989, but no one picked up on it. Nothing happened! Then a year and a bit later my boss said, ‘Why don’t you go ahead?’ He had a twinkle in his eye, and that twinkle in the eye was an important part of the Web’s development.”

Since then, the Web has become an inspiring and empowering tool that can give every child or parent a voice as loud as a multinational. And the first of those people was Sir Tim: he built the first webpage, which told people what the Web is and how it works, and the first browser to access it.

Today, among other things, he heads W3C, the body that oversees how it all works – this ever-growing library of human experience, including what Sir Tim acknowledges is its “dark side”.

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