Twenty Years of WWW

Science inspired the world wide web. Two decades on, the web has repaid the compliment by changing science

“INFORMATION Management: A Proposal”. That was the bland title of a document written in March 1989 by a then little-known computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee who was working at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory, near Geneva. Mr Berners-Lee (pictured) is now, of course, Sir Timothy, and his proposal, modestly dubbed the world wide web, has fulfilled the implications of its name beyond the wildest dreams of anyone involved at the time.

In fact, the web was invented to deal with a specific problem. In the late 1980s, CERN was planning one of the most ambitious scientific projects ever, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. (This opened, and then shut down again because of a leak in its cooling system, in September last year.) As the first few lines of the original proposal put it, “Many of the discussions of the future at CERN and the LHC era end with the question—‘Yes, but how will we ever keep track of such a large project?’ This proposal provides an answer to such questions.” …



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