The World Wide Web has its historical roots in things such as the creation of the telegraph, the launching of the Sputnik and more, but it really all started in March 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland wrote a paper called Information Management: A Proposal. In this document, he wrote "just another program" (BBC, 12/31/03) that happened to revolutionize the world as we know it.
The proposal suggested a way of managing information that uses a "hypertext" process to link related documents together over a network. As you can see from the proposal, the requirements are very similar to the Web as we know it today:
- Remote access across networks
- Cross-system compatibility (called "Heterogeneity" in the proposal)
- No centralization - allowing nodes to be created where they were needed
- Access to existing data
- Bookmarks (called "Private Links")
- And more...
In October 1990, Berners-Lee is joined by Robert Cailliau and together they create a working prototype of what he dubbed the "WorldWideWeb" (ultimately the name was changed to add spaces). This system was viewed and pages edited with the WorldWideWeb browser/editor (later renamed Nexus). The Web at that time was only text, as the browser didn't have the ability to display inline images.
The Web remained in text-only form until 1992 or 1993 (sources differ) when the NCSA Mosaic browser came online supporting graphics. In February 1993, NCSA released the first alpha version of Marc Andreesen's Mosaic browser for X-Windows.
Late 1993 and Early 1994
NETCOM releases NetCruiser to set up customers with a graphical access to the Internet, it includes a graphical Web browser similar to Mosaic. O'Reilly and Spry announce that they are going to offer a consumer product called "Internet in a box" to allow consumers to surf the Web easily from their homes.
Then in March of 1994, Marc Andreesen and some colleagues leave NCSA to form "Mosaic Communications Corp." (later renamed Netscape Communications). And later in July 1994, MIT and CERN announce that they are forming the W3 Organization to regulate the Web.
1994 to 2003
HTML 2.0, HTML 3.2, HTML 4.0, and finally XML and XHTML 1.0 were all released in this time period. We also saw the rise and fall of the browser wars with Netscape gaining a huge market and then ultimately losing to Internet Explorer. The Web continued to grow as more and more people got on the Internet. In fact, today many people do not realize that the Web and the Internet are actually two different things.
On December 31st, 2003, England announced that Tim Berners-Lee would be awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his pioneering work creating the World Wide Web.