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Tim Berners-Lee's original WWW proposal (1989) (cern.ch)
86 points by epenn on April 15, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments



"We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities."

In other words: standards are more important than features. The utility of the web comes from being open and interoperable.


I saw the web in 1991. It didn't look ready to become adopted as a standard. The fancy graphics of NCSA Mosaic helped propel it forward. The img element was created without a standards process.



Is this meant to be a rebuttal? Or are you supporting the parent? The result of this discussion was no agreement, if I'm not mistaken, leading to mosaic implementing the img tag without a standard.


It was neither. It's just a link to the topic at hand. But yes, IMG was implemented w/o a standard.


And it was quite relevant. Sorry about that -- I'm used to reading everything here as an argument.


>> 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?

That is interesting. The LHC basically triggered the WWW.

Good argument for your next discussion with the annoying "what is all this expensive research even good for" type of people. The LHC gave you Facebook and YP, dude!


That's kindof like asking, "If it weren't for this expensive building project, nobody would have ever invented this new type of hammer". If $X buys you an LHC and the WWW, you could spend less than $X to buy the WWW.

I think experimental physics has plenty of its own utility, though it probably won't become relevant to engineering for decades.

My overall point is that you should account for the value of different components properly.


On values at CERN:

"The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y)" [where Y>X]

source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

ISBN: 9290831693 http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

Long PR story short: RPC was prevalent, that is how you control(led) your stuff remotely. Like Tim. Today, if you'd ask for a NeXT-like toy, you'd be denied were you an average Eastern. But western equivalent asked for it and got one, and put the gopher link address ptr in the reserved field of the text font properties (where things like bold and italics properties are stored) and voilà. You can also hire a cheap student to actually write the web client to be cross platform (its true virtue/value). Thanks to Nicola Pellow, of whom almost nobody knows about. Would the "web" have just run on NeXT, it would be long extinct, let alone take off.

On linking and hypertext: all post-war era stuff is spin. The real stuff comes from Belgium:

For ADD-ers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwRN5m64I7Y

The story: http://www.archive.org/details/paulotlet

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/forgotten_forefather_paul...

"How should we make it attractive for them [young people] to spend 5,6,7 years in our field, be satisfied, learn about excitement, but finally be qualified to find other possibilities?" -- H. Schopper

http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1127343?ln=en

The answer is a nice PR story on the web --

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spin_(public_...


So if the web was originally intended to be a document/project management system, what would you end up with if you tried to invent an (improved) global system of interconnected computer networks?


Something that never gets built because the project scope is too ambitious and ambiguous...

The World Wide Web was preceded by Project Xanadu [1] which, despite a decade of significant investments from both research institutions and private companies like Autodesk, never reached a stable state where it could be actually used for something by people outside the project's inner circle. The WWW got there just a few years after it started.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Xanadu


Thanks, exactly what I wanted to say.

Tech people often forget that for many global scale projects, the actual /technical/ problems to solve are only about 5% of the overall project. The political problems (political meaning conflicting interests of different parties involved) are much harder to solve.

Having studied both, I love tech because 1+1=2 always. I find politics much harder because --depending on the way you present a problem-- 1+1 maybe anything between 1 and 3, and sometimes even 20.


It's so interesting to see that the ideas of the Semantic Web came first, even though those aspects have been hardest to find adoption.


I see it as a variation on http://www.jwz.org/doc/worse-is-better.html. What TimBL had in mind would have been a monumentally more powerful trove of information, but our society doesn't want one of those very badly, so it rewarded the people who were taking shortcuts and making shiny toys rather than contributing to that. (And I'm about as guilty as anyone else of doing what pays.)


I think that was the result of Mosaic and later Netscape, as well as David Siegel.


It amuses me how the initial proposals for what turn out to be great ideas often are so relatively narrow and small. The anecdote about the Xerox photocopier's R&D being justified by adding up the number of secretaries and the number of documents replicated via mimeograph comes to mind. [Sorry, couldn't find link]

What we don't ever see are the absurdly optimistic justifications for really bad ideas. Cuecat? Iridium satellites? The supposed future ubiquity if the Segway? We only know about the flops which because big enough (or were hyped enough) to have gotten publicity. Have you ever seen the abysmal nature of business plans in a local business plan competition?

I almost included Webvan, but I'm not sure that it was an inherently bad idea -- just one which required high adoption levels to achieve positive cash flow. And, I didn't include things like pets.com which I suspect (without justification) were known by their inventors as bad-but-flip-able ideas.


"Vague, but exciting.." how prescient.


I have this diagram on a cern tshirt that I unexpectedly found in a charity shop.

It is probably my geekiest wearable item, other than maybe my magnifying soldering glasses.




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