Tuesday 16 March 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 3 - What is the World Wide Web?

I'm swimming in a sea of nostalgia so far with this class. And feeling somewhat old. The thing is, I REMEMBER some of this stuff actually happening. It's not like doing a history course about stuff that happened 200 years ago. I've HEARD of Tim Berners-Lee, AND he's still alive. I HAD a version of the first MOSAIC web browser, followed by the first version of Netscape. I found a webpage that I wrote more than 13 years ago in a text editor, on the Wayback machine. I feel like some kind of pioneer, albeit one that nobody has ever heard of. :>

I posted this story on the class Discussion Boards so I thought I'd re-word it slightly and post it here, because it shows just how much things have changed in a relatively short time:

I did a backpacking trip in 1996 when I was working as an IT nerd at McDonald's Australia, which included 2 months in the US. I remember coming back and telling my boss that I'd seen billboards there with www. web addresses on them, and that McDonald's really should get a local .com.au website and be at the forefront of this WWW revolution in Australia - but he said it was a waste of time, mcdonalds.com would do fine. I've just now discovered the first version of www.mcdonalds.com.au is dated April 1999! So I can console myself that I may be getting old now, but once upon a time I was before my time. :>

It's actually quite interesting to think about how the World Wide Web actually started, and reassuring that I don't remember the early part. The first person to put ideas into words about how the World Wide Web should eventually work, was a guy named Vannevar Bush who in 1945 speculated about creating a machine that would store information in a framework more like the human brain - not a nice clear single book but a network of associated ideas all linked together. He was followed in 1965 by a guy named Ted Nelson who defined the idea of non-sequential, non-linear, connected text, which today is called "hypertext". Then followed George Landow (1992), who had much to say about Foucalt and Poststructuralism, Doug Engalbart who built the first keyboard/mouse combination and in fact created the first computer mouse, and the development of ARPAnet.

Frankly, all of this to me was just groundwork for the genius that is Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1990 basically developed the World Wide Web. His original proposal can be found online here. Apart from proposing the structure of the WWW, he also created the first browser and most importantly - made the Internet free. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be sitting here today writing a blog that nobody reads!!

In light of the current Australian Government's push to censor free speech in our apparently democratic society, I think it's appropriate to finish off today's post with a quote from Tim, from his book "Weaving the Web":

The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect - to help people work together - and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump together into families, associations and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner. What we believe, endorse, agree with, and depend on is representable and, increasingly, represented on the Web. We all have to ensure that the society we build with the Web is of the sort we intend.
- Tim Berners-Lee, 1999 - Weaving the Web: p123


  1. Nicely said, although you'll have to add one word: "a blog that almost nobody reads!!" :)

  2. Gosh, how exciting, comments! :p


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