The antique saying, “necessity is the mother of invention”, holds true when it comes to how the World Wide Web was invented.
First of all, the Internet was already in existence before the Web was invented. What we now know as the Internet began slowly evolving in the early 1960s. A researcher for the technology company Bolt, Beranek, and Newman came up with the basic idea. J.C.R. Licklider described his vision of an “Intergalactic Computer Network”. Anybody with a computer could share information with another person.
The Pentagon liked the idea because they knew such a network would be very useful during the Cold War. They hired Licklider and he helped develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). The first ARPANET messages were sent between UCLA and Stanford Research Institute in October of 1969.
By the 1980s other computer networks had sprung up around the globe. In the United States, the National Science Foundation developed NSFNET as the civilian portion of ARPANET. In 1990 ARPANET was decommisioned. The following year, the government lifted all restrictions on NSFNET. In 1995 some 50,000 networks on seven continents and Outer Space became privatized. In a nutshell, that’s how the Internet came into being.
In March of 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal to his supervisor at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. The memo suggested the development of an information sharing system for the laboratory. He was given a CERN grant to work on the project.
While thinking over solutions that would solve computer incompatibility problems, Berners-Lee realized it would be helpful if the scientists could not only share data with each other, they could also run some of their experiments over the CERN in-house network in real time wherever they happened to be. Why not have the CERN network share information over the Internet? Berners-Lee would need to create an application to run on the Internet.
By late December of 1990 Berners-Lee had developed the basic concepts for the Web: the URL, http and html, plus the first browser and server software. He debuted the first Web page, on the first Web server, with the first Web browser on Christmas Day.
It was on August 6, 1991 that the World Wide Web was officially opened to the general public. There was no major media hoopla. Most of the world had no idea that it even happened or what it even was. The launch was initiated by a simple short post on the alt.hypertext newsgroup by Berners-Lee himself. That’s all there was to it.
The first time that casual, civilian web browsers were capable of surfing the new World Wide Web was on August 23, 1991. So, dates of the release of the Web to the public plus the first actual public browser access were combined to be celebrated each August 1st as World Wide Web Day.
Happy WWW Day!