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Tim Berners-Lee

Last Edit: 30/09/18

bullet Introduction

Tim Berners-Lee (full title: Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee) is a British computer scientist who is credited as being the inventor of the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee was born in London on the 18th of June 1955; his parents were computer scientists who worked on the Manchester Electronic Computer in the 1950s. Berners-Lee studied physics at Oxford University in the 1970s; earning a first-class bachelor of arts degree. After graduating, Berners-Lee worked for an English telecommunications' company, before joining CERN as an independent contractor in 1980.

Berners-Lee worked 'on and off' at CERN throughout the 1980s and at the end of the decade received funding from CERN to develop the World Wide Web. The Web become a 'live' service on the Internet in the early 1990s and Berners-Lee left CERN to create the World Wide Web Consortium in 1994. Since 1994, Berners-Lee has worked on a range of 'open data' government initiatives, founded the World Wide Web Foundation, has promoted schemes to improve access to the Internet in developing countries and is currently a research fellow at Oxford University. For his contribution "to the global development of the Internet" Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

Tim Berners-Lee
(Pictured: Tim Berners-Lee in animated discussion)

bullet Developing the World Wide Web

As previously stated, Berners-Lee is primarily known as being the inventor of the World Wide Web, and did so whilst working at CERN. When Berners-Lee joined CERN in 1980, he wrote a hypertext program named ENQUIRE: the aim of this software project was to help CERN researchers share information. ENQUIRE ultimately proved a failure, but Berners-Lee did not 'throw in the towel', he envisaged a new hypertext system that was available to everyone. Berners-Lee was in luck: CERN had become the most important European IP (Internet) network in the mid-late 1980s, and was the perfect place to launch a global hypertext system.

The first proposal that Berners-Lee wrote for his new hypertext project was submitted in March 1989, but it did not succeed in receiving funding. Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau set about designing the software for their hypertext project in 1990, and the new proposal they submitted in November 1990, did receive funding from CERN. This funding enabled Berners-Lee to supply his development team with state-of-the-art workstations.

One of the challenges that Berners-Lee and his CERN WWW development team faced was connecting his hypertext system to the existing TCP and DNS systems. Berners-Lee was eventually successful in connecting a HTTP server and client to the Internet. The first client program (browser) he developed for the web was named WorldWideWeb and the hypertext language he developed to create web documents was named HTML. The first web server was hosted on a NeXT computer, and the first web page was written by Berners-Lee at the following URL:

the first ever address for a web page

By 1994, the World Wide Web was proving a global phenomenon, and Berners-Lee left CERN to found the World Wide Web Consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - W3C oversee the development of web standards. Berners-Lee is still a director of the W3C, and has helped oversee the development of CSS, XML, XHTML, and HTML5.

In 2018, Berners-Lee led a development team to create an app to help users control their data on the web: the app is named Solid.