August 20, 2012 | Leave a comment

Tim Berners-LeeSir Tim Berners-Lee, on August 19, 1991:

WorldWideWeb is a hypertext browser/editor which allows one to read information from local files and remote servers. It allows hypertext links to be made and traversed, and also remote indexes to be interrogated for lists of useful documents. Local files may be edited, and links made from areas of text to other files, remote files, remote indexes, remote index searches, internet news groups and articles. All these sources of information are presented in a consistent way to the reader. For example, an index search returns a hypertext document with pointers to documents matching the query. Internet news articles are displayed with hypertext links to other referenced articles and groups.

[...] This project is experimental and of course comes without any warranty whatsoever. However, it could start a revolution in information access. We are currently using WWW for user support at CERN. We would be very interested in comments from anyone trying WWW, and especially those making other data available, as part of a truly world-wide web.

Tim Berners-Lee’s original WWW announcement.

Almost twenty-one years later, Sir Tim tweeted from the London 2012 opening ceremony, following a multi-million-pound song and dance routine in his honor:

Tim could have chosen to license the system he developed, and he and CERN would have probably made some decent revenue through doing so. Instead, though, he had the foresight to open it to the world, even recognizing in his initial announcement that it could start a revolution in how information is accessed.

This website is hosted in Dallas, Texas, and runs open source software written all over the world. The words were written in Berkeley, California. The photo was uploaded from São Paulo, Brazil, and was served from one of Yahoo!’s datacenters. The embedded tweet was pulled from Twitter’s servers. It took me 20 minutes to pull all of this together and post it, and no more than a couple of seconds to reach you, and none of this is magic any more.

That any of us can reach each other, no matter who we are or where we are in the world, and can publish to a wide audience, is no longer something amazing or rare in 2012. It’s a baseline; something incredibly common in the developed world, that we hope to provide to the places that don’t have it yet, because they should have it too.

It’s a democratizer, a unifier, a tool of empowerment and social freedom, all because one man decided it should be free.

Thank you, Tim.