Happy birthday WWW: 24 things you probably didn't know about the Web #web25

Did you know that Sir Tim is more commonly known as "timbl"? As the World Wide Web turns 25 today, we bring you 24 facts direct from Tim Berners-Lee's team - with a 25th awaiting the input of the public.

Today marks 25 years of the World Wide Web #web25
Today marks 25 years of the World Wide Web #web25

The extra fact to be added to this official list will come from people all over the world who tweet using the #web25fact hashtag.

Follow our coverage of 25 years of the World Wide Web here #web25

1. Berners-Lee is the son of British mathematicians and computer scientists Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee, who worked on the first commercially-built electronic computer, the Ferranti Mark 1.

2. In college, Berners-Lee built a computer out of an old television set.

3. The web was not Berners-Lee's first design for a system to link information. In 1980 he wrote ENQUIRE, whose name came from a Victorian era how-to book called "Enquire Within Upon Everything", owned by Berners-Lee's parents while he was growing up. The ENQUIRE code has been lost to history.

Before settling on 'the Web', Berners-Lee thought of the names Information Mesh, The Information Mine (TIM) and Mine of Information

4. Before settling on "the Web", Berners-Lee thought of the names "Information Mesh", "The Information Mine" (TIM), and "Mine of Information".

5. The Web was first described in a March 1989 proposal from Berners-Lee while at CERN. In it he wrote: "In providing a system for manipulating this sort of information, the hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organisation and the projects it describes. For this to be possible, the method of storage must not place its own restraints on the information. This is why a "web" of notes with links (like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system."

6. Mike Sendall, Berners-Lee's manager at the time, commented on the original proposal: "Vague, but exciting." Fortunately, Sendall thought enough of the proposal to allow Berners-Lee to work on it on the side. 

7. In 1990, Berners-Lee wrote the first browser and editor, called World Wide Web, which ran on a NeXT computer. Steve Jobs had left Apple to create NeXT Inc., and later returned to Apple. 

8. WorldWideWeb.app, which took two months to write, was also an editor, so the earliest vision of the web was one where anyone could contribute.

9. The first website was info.cern.ch, hosted by CERN, on Tim's desktop computer. 

10. The early web pages from 1992 were preserved by Berners-Lee and W3C, but CERN did not serve them until April 2013. 

11. A few simple ideas have played a key role in making the web a success:

  • It is universal: it can be made to work with any form of data, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information.

  • It is decentralised: anybody can create a site. This enabled the web to grow quickly. 

  • The core technology is royalty-free: because people can implement web technology royalty-free, this spurs innovation.

  • It is the result of global collaboration.

12. The web is not the same thing as the internet. The internet protocols describe how to send packets of information between pieces of software. The first internet protocols were defined in 1969. Since then, many applications have used them in different ways, including email, FTP, and the web. The web is any information that is identified with a URL (universal resource locator). That makes the URL the most fundamental piece of web technology.

13. The double slash "//" in URLs was an idea Berners-Lee copied from the Apollo workstation's "domain" file system. Microsoft later adopted double backslash "\\" under the same influence.

Although many website addresses start with 'www' there is no requirement they begin this way

14. Although many website addresses start with "www" there is no requirement they begin this way; it was just an early convention to help people recognise that someone was running a web server.

15. The WorldWideWeb browser was made available on the public internet by FTP, and promoted on network news messages in August 1991. Other browsers soon followed, including ViolaWWW, Midas, Erwise, and Samba. Mosaic, which later became Netscape, was released in 1993. You can experience the early "line mode" browser that was released in 1992 with mode browser emulator made available in 2013. 

16. On 30 April 1993, CERN hit a critical milestone in enabling broad adoption of the web

17. In October 1994, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop common standards for core web technology. The goal of the organisation is to ensure the web is available to all, and not fragmented into proprietary silos. Today four neutral academic organisations host the activities of the Consortium: MIT, ERCIM, Keio University and Beihang University. 

18. In 2004, W3C adopted an industry-leading, royalty-free patent policy to further Berners-Lee's vision of the web as an open platform for innovation. 

19. Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. While some call him Sir Tim, he most often goes by "timbl". 

20. In 2008, Berners-Lee launched the World Web Foundation. Its mission is to establish the open web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely. 

21. Today it is estimated that just under 40% of the world's population has internet access. On average, a fixed broadband connection costs more than a third of income in the developing world. (Source: ITU)  

22. The languages most used in communications are, in order: English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.

The number of websites are estimated to reach 1bn by the end of 2014, this anniversary year

23. Estimates of the number of web pages vary greatly, but it is surely in the tens of billions. Many estimates depend on what search engines access, but it is expected that many times more public pages exist that are not indexed by search engines.

24. Internet live stats estimates that the number of websites will reach 1bn by the end of 2014, this anniversary year. See the live count here.

25. Insert your own super web fact here                   by tweeting direct to Tim and his team at @Web25 using the #web25fact hashtag.

Follow our coverage of 25 years of the World Wide Web here #web25


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