The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web

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Many people assume the internet and the World Wide Web are synonymous and readily interchange the terms. However, it was the birth of the internet in 1974 that gave computer scientist and engineer Tim Berners-Lee the opportunity to create the World Wide Web 15 years later.

The creation of the internet is generally attributed to American electrical engineer Robert Kahn and internet pioneer Vinton Cerf, who designed Transmission Control Protocol, publishing it in RFC 675 in December 1974. The first commercial version, Telenet, was then launched.

Berners-Lee gave the WWW to the world for free, after successfully implementing the first communication between a server and a Hypertext Transfer Protocol client via the internet in November 1989. He was a fellow of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research – Europe’s biggest internet node at the time.



The development of the World Wide Web had begun in the early 1980s: Berners-Lee had received a first-class bachelor of arts degree in physics from Queen’s College, Oxford, where he studied from 1973 to 1976, before working as a telecommunications engineer in Dorset.

He became an independent contractor for CERN in 1980 and proposed a ground-breaking project to facilitate sharing information among the researchers, based on hypertext. He built a prototype, called ENQUIRE, to demonstrate his concept. He then ran the technical side of Bournemouth-based Image Computer Systems Ltd, giving him experience in computer networking, before returning to CERN, this time as a fellow.

In 1989, his innovative project to launch the World Wide Web began in earnest. In March 1989, he wrote his proposal – and in 1990, his manager, Mike Sendall, accepted it. Berners-Lee based his system on ideas similar to those used in the ENQUIRE system. He designed and built the first Web browser, with software that also functioned as an editor, known as WorldWideWeb, which ran on the NeXTSTEP operating system. The first Web server was CERN HTTPd – an abbreviation of Hypertext Transfer Protocol daemon.

The developer, now aged 62 and a professor of computer science at Queen’s College, Oxford University, remains modest about his achievements. In an interview, he said most of the technology needed for the Web – such as the internet, hypertext and multifont text objects – had already been designed. He added: “I just had to put them together.”



Berners-Lee is director of the World Wide Web Consortium, overseeing continuous Web development. He also founded the World Wide Web Foundation and is senior researcher at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is an advisory board member at the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence, director of the Web Science Research Initiative and president of the Open Data Institute.

He has been recognised multiple times for his pioneering work on the World Wide Web, as he was knighted in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth II and became an associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2009. During the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, he was honoured as the person who invented the World Wide Web and appeared in person. He also won the Turing Award of 2016 for his invention of the first web browser and the required algorithms and protocols.


Internet v World Wide Web

In basic terms, the Web is a portion of the internet. A massive networking infrastructure, connecting millions of computers together across the world, it allows any computer to communicate with another. Each internet computer is independent and the information travels across the internet via languages known as protocols. The internet is decentralised and there are an estimated 3.7 billion users across the globe.

The World Wide Web is a way of accessing information over the internet. It uses the HTTP protocol – one of the languages spoken on the internet – to transmit data via a system of servers that support specially-formatted documents. Web services use HTTP to permit applications to communicate and share information. The Web also uses browsers, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer, to access Web pages linked by hyperlinks. These web documents also contain sounds, graphics, video and text. There are more than 1.27 billion websites in the world.



The World Wide Web has changed everyday life for individuals and businesses alike. It enables people to communicate quickly by email and it is easy to share photos and links with friends and contacts. You can keep in touch with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. Using sat nav technology means you’ll never have to rely on a paper map again, while you can take advantage of limitless information at your fingertips, with the click of a button.

You can watch videos wherever you are – even on the bus to work – or use a mobile device to keep in touch with your workplace on the move, or from home, or from just about anywhere, as long as there’s an internet connection. It is possible to network online or get advice – anonymously if required – on just about any topic by simply asking a question on one of the many social networking or other sites.

Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation is aiming to deliver the WWW to the whole planet. Its goal is to deliver digital equality everywhere by changing government and business policies, so that people can access the internet, using it freely, wherever they are. The foundation is credited with having changed government internet policies in at least 12 countries in recent years.

The World Wide Web is crucial to today’s world.

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