At #NetGain: Quick history of the Web

As t-shirts about the WWW & Net go, these, worn by @timberners_lee @vgcerf, are epic. HT @W3C #netgain -- @digiphile

At #NetGain: Quick history of the Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to whom we owe pretty much everything, was talking about how proprietary vs open software fueled his development of the WWW. I captured the tl;dr version in my book, in case you’re interested:


Although the Internet has been around for 40 years, it was largely the provenance of military researchers and academics until some Very Important Things happened. In early 1992, there were “26 reasonably reliable” servers connected to one another, forming the World Wide Web. By late 1993, that number had grown to more than 200, and a trifecta of events occurred within a few months of each other to send the WWW hurtling toward the mainstream:

  • A lot of users had been using something called Gopher, developed by the University of Minnesota, to share documents. The university made a very silly judgment call: It decided to charge organizations that wanted to use this technology on their servers. That decision caused server administrators to explore other free options; the World Wide Web, just gaining traction, was quite attractive.
  • Then CERN, the organization that was “in charge” of the technology behind the WWW, decided that it wouldn’t charge for licensing the tech and that it would make the code readily available to anyone who was interested.
  • Finally, Marc Andreessen, who had left NCSA in ’93 to start a company focused on web software, publicly released the first version of Mosaic after earlier versions had gained popularity among academics. It was one of the first graphical web browsers accessible for everyday folks to use, and one of the first to display images “in- line,” or within the web page. Inline images were a huge leap! Mosaic and the company that Andreessen founded eventually became Netscape.

Voila?, the rush to the WWW was born.