12 November 1990: Tim Berners-Lee sets out to build the World Wide Web

On this day in 1990, Sir Tim Berners-Lee set out his proposals for creating the World Wide Web.

Cern, the European nuclear research agency in Switzerland, churns out an awful lot of data, as you might expect. In March 1989, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee sent out a proposal to his colleagues bemoaning the fact that it was all too easy for information to get filed away and lost. Different departments used different computers, which ran different software, much of which was unable to talk to each other. If you found part of what you were looking for on one computer, you might have to get up and go to another computer to complete your search.

But what if you didn't know exactly what you were looking for? You might be able to follow a trail for a while, but miss all the data around it. Berners-Lee's solution was to have links on pages, over a network of computers, that would direct researchers from A to B, and then possibly straight to E, all at the click of a mouse.

Information would be easier to find because it mimicked the way people communicate in the real world, as opposed to following an endless, rigid directory of folders contained within folders. People don't just talk to their boss, for example, they talk to everyone in the office, sharing ideas in all direction, so why not do the same with linked pages on an interconnected network of computers – an “internet”?

For that to happen, pages would have to be “marked up” in a common language, which Berners-Lee referred to as “hypertext”. Hypertext mark-up language, HTML for short, is still the foundation of web pages today. And, if anybody was free to create these pages, you would eventually have a “world-wide web” of data.

On 12 November 1990, Berners-Lee and colleague Robert Cailliau published a proposal entitled WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a HyperText Project that set out a two-phase plan to achieve their web. The first stage would involve the “implementation of simple browsers”. Then they would “extend the application”, “allowing the users to add new material”.

For the “state-of-the-art” computers and software needed for the project, the pair budgeted around CHF80,000 (£32,500 in 1990). But research into “fancy multimedia facilities such as sound and video” would have to wait for the time being.

In the 30 years since then, the World Wide Web has changed our lives in ways we could scarcely have imagined. Who knows where the Web will take us next?

Recommended

The US Federal Reserve is about to rein in its money-printing – what does that mean for markets?
US Economy

The US Federal Reserve is about to rein in its money-printing – what does that mean for markets?

America’s central bank is talking surprisingly tough about tightening monetary policy. And it’s not the only one. John Stepek looks at what it all mea…
23 Sep 2021
The uranium price is soaring – here’s the best way to play it now
Energy

The uranium price is soaring – here’s the best way to play it now

Uranium, the key ingredient to nuclear power, has been ignored since the bubble of 2006, but now the uranium price is rising again. Dominic Frisby exp…
22 Sep 2021
I wish I knew what contagion was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask
Too embarrassed to ask

I wish I knew what contagion was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask

Most of us probably know what “contagion” is in a biological sense. But it also crops up in financial markets. Here's what it means.
21 Sep 2021
Why is the UK short of CO2 and what does it mean for you?
UK Economy

Why is the UK short of CO2 and what does it mean for you?

The UK is experiencing a carbon dioxide shortage that could lead to empty shelves in supermarkets. Saloni Sardana explains what’s going on and how it …
21 Sep 2021

Most Popular

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021
Two shipping funds to buy for steady income
Investment trusts

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income

Returns from owning ships are volatile, but these two investment trusts are trying to make the sector less risky.
7 Sep 2021
How to stop recurring subscriptions becoming a drain on your money
Personal finance

How to stop recurring subscriptions becoming a drain on your money

Tracking and pruning subscriptions isn’t as easy as it sounds. Here's how to take charge.
14 Sep 2021