Tech Time Warp: World Wide Web Becomes Public Domain

This weekend, before you pay bills online, order grocery delivery, and stream your latest binge-watch, raise a glass to Tim Berners-Lee and CERN, who made the World Wide Web software public domain on April 30, 1993.

It’s hard to overstate the impact of this surrender of intellectual property rights. Berners-Lee, a physicist at CERN (the French acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research), had invented the World Wide Web in 1989 to make it easier for scientists to communicate with one another. In creating the web, Berners-Lee made the resources of the Internet accessible. The World Wide Web concept was threefold:

  • Use hyperlinks to link pages together, making it easy to access online records. This grew into HTML.
  • Use a Universal Document Identifier (UDI)—now a Universal Resource Locator (URL)—to access pages in a uniform manner. Gone were the days of knowing which server hosted the information.
  • Use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to transmit information.

So, essentially, Berners-Lee invented the online experience we all enjoy today. (Apologies to Al Gore, who did author the legislation that funded development of the free Mosaic browser. This one-two punch allowed all of us to experience the World Wide Web.)

To celebrate the World Wide Web’s 20th anniversary in 2013, CERN reestablished the original website created by Berners-Lee at https://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

Berners-Lee left CERN in 1994 and founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which develops Web standards and ensures an open, uniform experience for web users.

Tech Time Warp is a weekly feature that looks back at interesting moments and milestones in tech history.

Photo: Duncan Hull via Flickr.com. Used under CC 2.0 License.

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