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Friday, March 13, 2009

Tim Berners Lee wove World Wide Web creating mass medium for 21st Century

Tim Berners Lee 'invented' the World Wide Web 23 years ago on March 13, but chances are you have never heard of him. Two years ago, I wrote a piece about him for my blog and decided to update it a bit.

In 1999, Time magazine named Berners Lee as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, saying, "He wove the World Wide Web and created a mass medium for the 21st century. The World Wide Web is Berners-Lee's alone. He designed it. He loosed it on the world. And he more than anyone else has fought to keep it open, nonproprietary and free."

In my earlier article I noted that Berners Lee had commented on the forward slash in URLS being unnecessary. I was delighted to see on Wikepedia that he confirmed it years later after I heard him speak at the University of Toronto. In a Times article in October 2009, Berners-Lee admitted that the forward slashes ("//") in a web address were actually "unnecessary". He told the newspaper that he could easily have designed URLs not to have the forward slashes. "There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time," he said in his lighthearted apology`.


Most recently in November 2009, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Foundation in order to "Advance the Web to empower humanity by launching transformative programs that build local capacity to leverage the Web as a medium for positive change."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee



HERE IS MY ARTICLE POSTED ON MARCH 13, 2009.

The 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web didn't get much media attention today. In fact I just noticed a short article on MSN marking the occasion, and its inventor Tim Berners-Lee is not well known outside academia.

But Berners-Lee may be the single most important person since Guttenberg in changing the way we communicate. I was so privileged to spend an afternoon listening to him in 1996 while attending a conference "The Internet Beyond the Year 2000" at the University of Toronto. To be honest, even though I had developed one of the first graduate programs in New Media Communications in Canada at College of the Rockies, I had no idea who Tim Berners-Lee was before that afternoon.

Perhaps most striking about him was his great modesty Here was one of the great thinkers and scientists of our time, and he had no need to be 'the sage on the stage.' After giving his talk, Berners-Lee sat on the edge of the stage to take questions.

The first question was from Dr Somebody from Some University, who started with "Dr Berners-Lee.." and before he got any further, he was cut off by Berners-Lee who said, "Tim will do." The professor didn't get it and again said, "Dr Berners-Lee.." only to be cut off with "Tim" and a shake of his head. The room broke up.

He was asked many questions but one that stuck in my mind was, "What would you do differently now." Berners-Lee replied after a moment, "I realized I didn't need the forward slash." Again the room broke up.

He was also asked about the process involved in inventing the web and how long it took. He said that he had been "thinking" about it for a long time and then one day simply decided to get it done.

Perhaps the single most impressive moment I saw of Berners-Lee was at a showcase of technology and industry. Students from Confederation High School in Nepean had created a web page, and Berners-Lee, hands behind his back, went up to them and asked some questions. At no time did he identify himself as the inventor of the web.

After he left I went over and asked the students if they knew who their visitor was. They didn't and when I told them, like students everywhere, they were afraid they had made mistakes. I assured them Berners-Lee was likely delighted to see their work.

For those who don't know exactly what he did, Berners Lee wrote the first Web clients and server and defined the URL, HTTP, and HTML specifications on which the Web depends. He was then working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory.

Knighted in 2003, Sir Tim Berners Lee is now the director of the W3 Consortium and is a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To have been able to spend time listening to him has to count as one of the most truly memorable moments of my entire teaching career.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee

2 comments:

Michael J said...

Chantal wrote on facebook;

Hard to believe that the 20th anniversay received little media attention. The ball was definitely dropped.

mellowlee said...

I enjoyed your article Michael. Im reposting it on my Facebook to spread it around. More people should know who Berners-Lee is. I remember you teaching us about him in New Media Communications

Michael J Morris

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