back to article Web inventor Berners-Lee: I so did NOT see this cat vid thing coming

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has had a busy day of it. On the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web (not the internet) he's launched a campaign for an internet bill of rights, has given plenty of interviews, and on Wednesday afternoon took to Reddit to take questions from the public. "The web is a primarily neutral tool for humanity. …

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"...before settling on World Wide Web because "I could start global variable names with a W.""

This - this, gentlemen, is my kind of guy.

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TIM

It could have been "The Information Mine". (Though in my world global variables start with "O".)

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Facepalm

And it's funny because

At 9 syllables, it takes three times longer to say the abbreviation than what it stands for.

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Re: And it's funny because

Only three sylables in Italian though

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Re: And it's funny because

Not if you pronounce them as lower case (wuh)

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Father of the World Wide Web

When someone searches for who made the web, he sees a person fighting to make it safer (not as defined by the governments). He may not be a perfect man of opinions, but, a perfect father I'd say.

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Whatever.

We were doing the same shit HTTP does in the early 1980s.

In-line graphics? Maybe not so much ... Until Gopher ;-)

Sir Tim is truly a manufactured saint. He didn't actually do anything.

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Re: Whatever.

Whereas your contribution, on the other hand, is ...

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@ lesession (was: Re: Whatever.)

I was working on ARPANET's NCP in roughly 1978.

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1117141

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1679598

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Re: @ lesession (was: Whatever.)

Undoubtedly worthy but not single-person-attributable and did not facilitate cat pictures.

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Re: @ lesession (was: Whatever.)

"Undoubtedly worthy"

Nah. I was in the wrong place & time. Uni is funny that way :-)

"but not single-person-attributable"

DUH! Any idiot who claims to have personally invented this kludge (or revels in the proles fawning on them for same) should be pointed at and giggled at for being the asses that they are.

"and did not facilitate cat pictures."

I'm absolutely certain that I saw cat pictures online before TCP/IP, much less HTTP.

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Re: Whatever.

'same as' is not 'actual' :/ do try to find the difference between a 'protocol' and a 'naming system' ...

you DO know what I mean, I hope???

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@illiad (was: Re: Whatever.)

Your point?

In my world, it's all ones & zeros.

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Re: @illiad (was: Whatever.)

In my world, it's all ones & zeros.

Looks like you drew the zero then..

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my useless contribution

Back in Uni , early 90's , I wrote a program on the VAX/VMS system that allowed you to lookup a student id and get the persons name/ course , if they were logged in, and after a lot of tracing, mapped out the computer labs so you could see what desk they were sitting at in which lab. Nice for the stalkers of hot birds!. I swear that wasn't my motivation !!! (** yes, like finger, but that was priv only access)

When email/chat privs were removed from all students because one of the guys on the course hacked the system and emailed the operator his password, I wrote a pretty crude instant message app bolt on. Amazing watching people sitting 5 feet apart chat on green screen terminals. Very much like teens text each other in the same room these days. Remember this was 1991/1992 !

Met an old college friend recently and she said to me "Remember that system you wrote, kinda like its Facebook of the day" . I was depressed for a month. If i had kept developing that system I might be worth billions, but instead I got a "real" job and am worth f-all !

So, the lesson kids, stick to the useless stuff you are messing with. The oldies don't understand things at all.

As an aside, telneting into chat servers in the USA became really popular until the Uni got the Data bill (thousands) and then that was cut too.

Come to think of it, my Vax "handle" was Pito. Some of the spanish speaking readers might appreciate the humour in that. No Google in those days to find out what it meant. :-)

WordPerfect, Harvard Graphics, Lotus 123, Modula 2. Ah the memories.

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Re: @ lesession (was: Whatever.)

Hi Jake,

When you say you were "working on ARPANET's NCP", and you were "active in the development of TCP/IP", and "active in development of UUCP, NNTP and (S)MTP" - what EXACTLY were you doing, in terms of "developing" these things?

You seem very very very bitter about anybody who's achieved any kind of success, or fame from doing anything important in the history of the net/web, whenever you post about this stuff ... is there anyone well known you think did do anything good, or useful, or maybe just a wee bit better than you, in the history of this stuff?

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Re: @ lesession (was: Whatever.)

"I'm absolutely certain that I saw cat pictures online before TCP/IP, much less HTTP."

TCP/IP RFC was produced in 1974 (by Vint, Carl and Yogen, oddly, no jakes on the doc)

http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc675

Where did you see cat pictures "online" before 1974?

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Re: my useless contribution

In a similar vein, back when a mobile phone was housebrick-sized, I casually commented "Why can't we send e-mail to mobiles"?

A couple of years later, someone else invented Texting (and botched it by errecting a digital Berlin wall between the realms of text and e-mail). Sigh.

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Re: my useless contribution

No-one "errected a digital Berlin wall between the realms of text and e-mail" they're separate because they work in completely different ways, they just look a bit similar to users.

SMS is a "push" system using the phone network to push messages to the device; email was a "pull" system requiring users to open an application that pulled messages from a mailbox. Push email is an add-on to email that has been developed in the Blackberry/smartphone era as a simpler way for users to get email.

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Re: my useless contribution

The technological push/pull difference is absolutely no reason why one couldn't have sent e-mail to a mobile, even in the early 1990s. I'd send e-mail to (say) 08767654321@vodafone.com which would deliver it to a mailbox on a gateway computer at the mobile phone company. That system would periodically poll the mailboxes, check each mail therein for suitability for onward delivery to a mobile as text, and if suitable, push it to the phone using SMS. (For excessively large e-mails with attachments and suchlike, it could e-mail the sender with an explanation of the limits of what can be forwarded as SMS)

It's been done since, but it never caught on, and now smartphones do full-function e-mail.

The reverse (SMS to E-mail) would probably have required some extra hooks in the SMS protocol, but do you really think they'd have been impossible to implement? Anyway one-way e-mailing to text a phone would have been useful, just because it's easier to type on a computer keyboard than on a 0-9 keypad, and useful for many (even back then) for a computer to generate alert texts.

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Re: my useless contribution

nice little company locally to me go2mobile.com had the SMS to Email and Email to SMS service working in the late 90's . email to SMS was a paid feature, you bought credit and then could send an email to <number>@go2mobile.com and it arrived to the number as a text.

sms to email was free, you sent a text to go2mobiles provided number and put in the email address, space, then the message and it arrived to the desktop.

Nifty programming by them meant you could reply each way and messages would deliver correctly.

Worked great back then pre-smartphones. still useful today in some situations.

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Re: @ lesession (was: Whatever.)

" is there anyone well known you think did do anything good, or useful, or maybe just a wee bit better than you, in the history of this stuff?!

Al Gore! It was him and Jake what invented the internets

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surprised by the popularity of kittens

I guess so, him being a dog owner. o.O

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Re: surprised by the popularity of kittens

Well, he's a bloke. Had a woman invented the web, it would have been optimized for cat pictures.

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And how exactly is the Web not optimized for cat pics ?

When I look at my tabby, I get to thinking it's the entire world that is optimized for those bastards.

Love the purring, though.

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Sir Tim took some flack

methinks this is non-standard use of English, like.

(Flugzeugabwehrkanone, usw).

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Mine of Information

That was the name of a computer bookshop in St Albans.

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Holmes

Re: Mine of Information

Doctor Dark, I assume?

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Joke

Que?

Finally, when asked what was popular online that he'd never imagined would be a hit, Sir Tim answered "kittens." He said he hadn’t posted up any pictures of cats himself, but had sent a picture of his dog online

Puusies?

Was his first response puusies rather than kittens?

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Re: Que?

Which bit of that was the joke?

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I can't remember when, but

I can't remember when, but I needed to run a simple control unit simulation and was introduced to one of the university groups that could handle it via a telephone link (University of Illinois, I believe). I was soon after offerred the chance to do it via computer links, also via a phone link at first, but then directly via computers talking to each other, and other University computers, all on an interconnection system. A couple of years later, I was told that the second simulation task had been by ARPANET, "the" original internet. Comments??

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Re: I can't remember when, but

Comments about what part of your anecdote?

The NCP ARPANET is considered by some to be the original capital-I Internet, or its closest ancestor. When the ARPANET switched to TCP/IP (1 January 1983), the resulting network is widely considered to be the Internet. There were many internets - networks of networks - at the time, and some private ones (e.g. IBM's HONE VM/CMS network) were larger, but ARPANET was the biggest internet that connected a variety of organizations.

The advantages of the ARPANET Internet - IP's routability, relatively fat backbones like NSFNET, good support for a wide variety of platforms - let it gradually supplant competitors such as HONE and BITNET. When the NSFNET MOU expired and all the TCP/IP Internet was opened to commercial traffic, the former ARPANET became the Internet as it is today, on a smaller scale (and without some later, less-sweeping developments, like the very gradual growth of IPv6, IPv4 partitioning changes with CIDR and NAT, the development of parallel backbones courtesy of organizations like Google, the growth of VPN use, etc).

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aaron c

Tim is (rightfully) getting a lot praise here but he merely put the framework in, I think humanity is the one that deserves a big pat on the back for building the web into such an awesome tool. We all have a responsibility to look after the tool WE ALL BUILT!

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Re: aaron c

It was all going so well.

Then someone invented facebook and the gods of the internet took ill.

Then someone invented twitter and they realised that humanity could not be helped with technology.

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Anonymous Coward

A lot the today's functionality was already provided in 80's, just not many people were aware of it. Probably because the PC had still to appear on the homes of the great unwashed.

Every computing student was already instant messaging and sending documents.

Sir Tim's hyperlink to a document within a document was new and this is essentially the WWW. No need to send a document when I can send you a link to the document.

Still, its all just MEH! So-so bullshite that has morphed into something that no one wants or needs.

Fakefooker book and twatter, the lot can go in the bin, same as its tragic userbase!

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This post has been deleted by its author

Though hyperlinks were in frequent use before TBL's paper - for instance I remember the concept in Apple's HyperCard. Though of course Tim extended the concept to become the URL, which was really the clever bit.

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Agreed on Facebonk and Twatter, but surely Stackoverflow is of some use? And Google?

Sometimes one deserves credit just for starting a ball rolling. And if you think "obvious" is obvious, find out about the Dot Conjecture. Proving it defeated all mathematicians who tried for many decades. Yet it has a proof that requires only schoolboy geometry, a proof which is "obvious" -- from the moment someone has shown it to you.

I don't think the WWW is anywhere near mature yet. It's an invention like Watt's steam engine. Could anyone have imagined (in 1780) everything that would be changed by or depend on that invention by 1880?

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Very zorry to zay zat z4 waz first commerzially available computer

Zuse's Z4 was purchazed and later delivered to ETH Zurich in September 1950 .... zource:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z4_%28computer%29

zektion "After ze Woah"

a wreck zat does not work, does not count ...

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Happy

Re: Very zorry to zay zat z4 waz first commerzially available computer

I suppose Zuse was not a household name in Britain around 1940 but this is what the Wiki has on Zuse and the Ferranti Mk 1.

Konrad Zuse (German: [ˈkɔnʁat ˈtsuːzə]; 22 June 1910 – 18 December 1995) was a German civil engineer, inventor and computer pioneer. His greatest achievement was the world's first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, the Z3, which became operational in May 1941. Thanks to this machine and its predecessors, Zuse is often regarded as the inventor of the computer.[1][2][3][4]

Zuse was also noted for the S2 computing machine, considered the first process-controlled computer. He founded one of the earliest computer businesses in 1941, producing the Z4, which became the world's first commercial computer.

In 1950/1951 the Z4 was the only working digital computer in continental Europe, and the second digital computer in the world to be sold, beating the Ferranti Mark 1 by five months and the UNIVAC I by ten months, but in turn being beaten by the BINAC (although that never worked at the customer's site[10])

The Ferranti Mark 1, also known as the Manchester Electronic Computer in its sales literature,[1] and thus sometimes called the Manchester Ferranti, was the world's first commercially available general-purpose electronic computer.[2] It was "the tidied up and commercialised version of the Manchester computer".[3] The first machine was delivered to the University of Manchester in February 1951, ahead of the UNIVAC I, which was turned over to the United States Census Bureau on March the 31st (but not delivered until late December the following year[4]).

The UNIVAC I was the first American computer designed at the outset for business and administrative use

We seem to be rather obsessed with being first in one way or another.

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Coat

Very zorry to zay zat z4 waz first commerzially available computer

Hello Hanz, I suppoze you are German and zur commanze of the Engliz langeuage is from somethink like http://www.sfgate.com/comics/ck/Katzenjammer_Kids/2014-03-02

Still I am surprized you did not mention that Ferranti was the sonz of an Italiano.

What the hell (end of Joke alert), why the hell are we so unable to get rid of this mad sic and blind natinalism.

Looking back it's the reason for almost every problem and looking forward there we go again. Putin has managed to convince the Russians that the Nazi are on the other side of the boarder (a bit like Netanyahu).

Damn it, education and common sense, common sense regarding old books and cave paintings too. Are we not doing so well. Damn it.

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Why cats?

Cats perform the same role for digital imagery, that "Lorem ipsum ..." does for Typography.

Nobody knows why (except, possibly, the cats ... and they aren't telling).

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Anonymous Coward

DRM is just too dangerous to let loose on the web.

It would allow MIcrosoft or others to team up with content providers and lock specific user groups out of being able to view web content.

It's too risky.

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Meh

The web is hugely important, but its origin was a quick hack. TBL's success is sort of accidental, like Zuckerberg, except without the billion dollars. They'd both be mid-level developers or IT staff somewhere in any alternate history. He's not a dummy of course, but he's also not an industry-wide visionary or "the greatest genius since Einstein" as was said when he won a recent award.

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Meh

A few notes.

HTML. Markup languages were in use within IBM to allow them to keep their huge volume of documentation up to date. IE The 1960's. Their use is briefly alluded to in The Mythical Man Month by Brookes. SGML (the parent to all modern standardized markup languages) was lead authored by Goldfarb of IBM. AFAIK these could be rendered on dumb terminals attached to S/360 mainframes.

Hyperlinks. IIRC Sir Tim was inspired by a Mac app from a company called "OWL" based in Wales. but I'm not sure anyone had the notion to generalize the link into something (potentially) linking across the whole web.

Rendering application. Or "browser." Well that idea has been around for since at least Smalltalk.

BTW the original VAX browser ran on the mainframe and wrote to (effectively) a frame buffer in main memory. It then invoked a (tricky) routine to compute the differences between it and the previous image to minimize the amount of bandwidth needed and speed up the rendering.

This is an old text editors trick.

TBL scores because he was in a place which needed vendor neutral systems (sure IBM, DEC or Sperry or Univac could probably sell you a terminal that would thrash a 1st generation web browser, at $50k/ desk :-( ) and he was smart enough to make it happen.

None of it was new, putting it together in a form that could be delivered right down to a dumb(ish) terminal was.

TCP/IP stack + HTML interpreter + rendering engine --> Browser.

Simple when it's laid out, is it not?

But that was then, this is now.

So let me set a little puzzle for the rest of you.

Take the bits of modern software infrastructure you're most familiar with and put them together (perhaps with some little tweaks) in a brand new way that 10s (100s?) of millions of people will use daily to solve a problem they did not realize they had.

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Re: A few notes.

And he didn't only put the technical bits together. He sold the idea to management and got people to actually use his invention.

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Happy

Re: A few notes.

"And he didn't only put the technical bits together. He sold the idea to management and got people to actually use his invention."

True, but he had help on that score.

I thought I'd suggest the easy bit first, before the real challenge.

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Re: A few notes.

SGML (the parent to all modern standardized markup languages) was lead authored by Goldfarb of IBM.

Calling SGML "the parent to all modern standardized markup languages" is dubious. SGML is a rework of GML - created by Goldfarb, Mosher, and Lorie (the acronym is backformed) - which was a set of macros for IBM CP-67 SCRIPT. SCRIPT was written by Madnick at MIT, and was inspired by RUNOFF for CTSS, written by Saltzer (also at MIT).

CTSS RUNOFF is the direct ancestor of Multics runoff, which in turn led to UNIX *roff markup. The roff and SGML families are parallel branches of that tree.

Meanwhile, there's the TeX family, which is not descended from RUNOFF at all, except to some extent in spirit. Knuth's original TeX was developed in 1978; it branched into TeX82 and Steele's TeX rewrite in the 1980s, and now has any number of descendants and extensions (LaTeX, AMS-TeX, ConTeXt, XeTeX, etc).

AFAIK these could be rendered on dumb terminals attached to S/360 mainframes.

The 3270 is the quintessential smart terminal. While it's possible, with some effort, to use some types of dumb terminals with S/3xx systems, smart terminals are the rule.

I'm not sure anyone had the notion to generalize the link into something (potentially) linking across the whole web.

There wasn't any "web", but the idea of hypertext links to unrelated documents goes back at least to Bush's Memex. When the WWW was created there were extant, in-use systems that linked documents across networks, such as Gopher (as others have already pointed out).

TBL's system was also very much inspired by Dynatext, which had the disadvantages of supporting full SGML rather than a hugely stripped-down DTD, and charging license fees.

Rendering application. Or "browser." Well that idea has been around for since at least Smalltalk.

Or "user agent", which is what the actual specification calls it. And the idea of rendering a markup language obviously dates back to the invention of markup languages - otherwise what's the point? I don't know what aspect of Smalltalk you're referring to here, so I'm not sure whether there are earlier examples. But there probably are.

BTW the original VAX browser ran on the mainframe

Well, yes. All VAX software ran on ... a VAX. That's how it worked.

and wrote to (effectively) a frame buffer in main memory. It then invoked a (tricky) routine to compute the differences between it and the previous image to minimize the amount of bandwidth needed and speed up the rendering.

As did most terminal screen-oriented rendering packages, from BMS on S/3xx (which had the advantage of talking to a smart terminal) to UNIX curses (which didn't - curses!).

TBL scores because he was in a place which needed vendor neutral systems (sure IBM, DEC or Sperry or Univac could probably sell you a terminal that would thrash a 1st generation web browser, at $50k/ desk :-( )

The first generation of web browsers were line-oriented character-mode applications. They could render as fast as they could push bytes down the line to the terminal.

None of it was new, putting it together in a form that could be delivered right down to a dumb(ish) terminal was.

No, that wasn't particularly new either. What TBL's WWW offered, and what captured the initial audience at places like CERN, SLAC, and NCSA:

- Offering hypertext with embedded links. This was a well-known concept (note HTTP/HTML were announced on alt.hypertext in '91), and available in commercial products such as Dynatext, but not yet widely available in free, open-source form. This gave HTML a usability advantage over existing popular free alternatives such as Gopher (which puts links in menus). TBL himself has claimed that the key to the WWW's success was making a hypertext system available for the Internet; I think it's more complicated than that, but that was certainly an important aspect.

- Employing a hugely stripped-down DTD in HTML, which makes it much easier for casual users.

- Employing a simple transport protocol (HTTP 0.9) with plain-text commands, which makes it easy to experiment with using existing tools like telnet clients. HTTP also reused existing Internet standards such as MIME headers, which let developers reuse existing code.

- Offering useful content (CERN papers) right from the outset.

- An initial implementation on the fashionable NeXTCube. While there weren't many NeXT boxes around, they were disproportionally found at just the sort of places that first climbed on the WWW bandwagon. Scientists are just as vulnerable to shiny as other folks.

- A terrific marketing effort by Cailliau and others.

- The contributions of Andreessen and company at NCSA-UIUC. The IMG element was Andreessen's suggestion, and Mosaic, though not the first graphical HTML user agent, was hugely important in attracting new users.

Certainly there were several innovative elements there. It was time for an open-source, free hypertext system on the Internet - the infrastructure could finally support it at enough sites. And shortly after, it was time for graphical user agents, as graphical terminals were becoming sufficiently widespread (thanks in part to Project Athena and the like). TBL had the right interest at the right time.

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