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Tim Berners-Lee's Original Announcement (1991)
184 points by peterb on Aug 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

This turned out to be a historic announcement. Note that the release was in source and binary form. The liberal copyright policy wisely chosen by Tim Berners-Lee was an important reason for the WWW's success.

In contrast, this post again reminds me that the Usenet-archives are now owned by Google. Are they also available anywhere else? Like the WWW they are part of the world's cultural heritage. It's good that the archives are accessible, but they shouldn't be proprietary.

Google owns the most extensive archives of usenet because it has put in the effort. There's no reason that anyone else couldn't have done the same, they just failed to do so. Google acquired dejanews, an old usenet archival site, and they sought out personal archives as well to expand the collection. We should be happy that they have done anything, the more likely outcome was for no comprehensive archive ever to have been made.

No, it's because they bought the company, Deja, that was responsible for putting the first widespread web interface on Usenet. Google groups used to be just Usenet until it forked into something different (user lists). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Groups#Deja_News

Did you read my post all the way through? I know they acquired dejanews, I said it. But they also went to the effort to make use of deja's archive and to keep it safe. More so, they sought out private usenet archives and integrated them into their collection. Indeed, the very message that sparked this discussion comes from the work that google did and not from the dejanews archive since it dates to 1991, 4 years before deja began operations.

I disagree with this comment:

> We should be happy that they have done anything, the more likely outcome was for no comprehensive archive ever to have been made.

I think that's not the case, I think the existence of Google Groups is regarded as "good enough" by groups that might otherwise be doing archiving (Internet Archive, for one). That Groups started out with good intentions isn't surprising, but it has evolved into something completely different. If the intent was to archive an important part of the history of the internet, viewing posts wouldn't be behind a login-wall.

It isn't behind a login wall. If you saw a login screen when trying to access the link, then you must be partially logged into Google in the first place. Try the link in an incognito window and you'll see that no login is required.

Yah I thought I did. I didn't see Deja the first time I read it. May be my mistake because I'm tired from hacking all night (5am here), but it seemed shorter (the whole middle sentence wasn't there) the first time I read your comment.

"The liberal copyright policy wisely chosen by Tim Berners-Lee was an important reason for the WWW's success."

While Berners-Lee may have had a say in the matter, I think the credit goes to CERN for that one as they are the copyright holder:

"The code is not strictly public domain: it is copyright CERN (see copyright notice is in the .tar), but is free to collaborating institutes."

Still, there is no doubting that the liberal licensing helped WWW's success.

Some entity must commit funds to storing and keeping those archives available. I understand your concern, but no one company or government is more or less likely to do something folish with those archives than any other.

21 years to go from science lab side-project to the foundation of many of the largest multi-billion dollar companies in history and the glue to a worldwide communication network right out of science fiction. What will the next 21 years bring?

On the cautionary side, look at where many of those science labs are going -- in the U.S., for example. Increasingly dependent upon corporate funding and so, more or less, under the corporate thumb.

I'm not saying it's inevitable, but it's a warning sign for the Net, as well.

  > However, it could start a revolution in information access.
They had no idea.

Reminds me of "the most famous understatement in history" from the original Watson & Crick paper:

    > It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing
      we have postulated immediately suggests a possible
      copying mechanism for the genetic material.


They were literally jerks. Franklin's work hasn't escaped them either. He isn't even denying the misappropriation, after all, that is what a physicist does by his definition (take other people's data ...work):


just for the record and to please the prospective downvoting mob, here are my experimental observations consistent with the cern experimental domain in order to warn any non-westerners:

"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

Berner was looking at RPC as his dayjob to give control commands to machines. What Berner did, was to use the Interface Builder's precursor on the NeXT he got as a toy to put a gopher-like link into the text properties field, where the font boldness, size ...and colour and underline were. This was quite graphical programming, and not world-wide at the time (NeXT was an expensive toy). Hardly an innovation. And not everybody was allowed to toy around -- certainly not western equivalents.

Nobody has really heard of Groff, Pellow, Nielsen and the rest, who made it work multiplatform, over the command-line, etc. ie. world-wide. Nobody was astonished by them back then, because what they were doing was nothing special: several such systems existed already both commercial and academic. They were the cheap students, whose work allowed it to be opened up and given away without charge. WWW grew like it did because of two reasons: it was free of charge, because it was actually made by cheap and disposable students, and the then changing climate of the deregulation of the internet, of which some companies ie. Vermeer, Netscape could take early advantage of.

CERN likes cheap students' work, and sell if off as stellar examples of innovation by CERN. Read Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics by Veltman if you feel to downvote this because of CERN.

Are you a Markov chain? The state of the art has advanced a long way if so. Nevertheless I don't understand the point you're trying to make, except that you seem to doubt that what Tim Berners-Lee (not 'Berner') did was actually innovative.

Important innovation often comes from someone making a trivial-seeming connection between two existant but separate concepts. For better or worse, the person who makes the minor leap often gets the major credit, with little acknowledgement for those who did all the groundwork on the separate bits (but lacked the spark to join them together.) It's the creation of something novel - the linkage - that's innovative. It can be obvious in hindsight; it usually is, in fact, but it takes a certain brain to see the connection in the first place.

The world needs people who can contribute flashes of novelty, just as it needs people willing to toil for years refining, strengthening and otherwise enhancing the foundations that those flashes can dance across. In their lives, people do both all the time to various degrees. A very few, like TBL, start something truly enormous through accident of circumstance.

In 1991, hypertext wasn't new, the internet wasn't new, and network file servers weren't new; but the combination of the three to create a user-navigable web of documents independent of the underlying network was most assuredly new. In such leaps and connections the world advances.

I stick to my guns and do my best to warn others

"NARRATOR: Sir John Maddox, later editor of Nature for two decades, shows how Franklin's contribution was obscured by Watson and Crick with a single guarded sentence.

SIR JOHN MADDOX: They say, "We have been stimulated by a general knowledge of her work." But in fact, they had particular knowledge of her work. And I, as an editor, would have smelled a rat at that."

Or how about - “One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA” – Alexander Graham Bell, c.1880.

Actually, that the thought entered his mind at all is quite prescient.

I've read this memo dozens of times, and I never get tired of reading that line.

Start a revolution in information access, and speed the process of real world revolution. Happy Birthday WWW indeed.

Perhaps one day we'll look back at the 20th century as the century of the Ws: WWI, WWII, WWW.

I take nothing away from what he did and I'm one of those people who dislike it when some people belittle what he did. He did the browser and the protocol and the url scheme. The excellence of NeXTSTEP helped. I only recently learned that a lot of the design of html, in terms of deciding how to fit sgml to markup the "Web" was also Dave Raggett. So people who say TBL "copied" SGML are wrong in two ways. There was also Calliau. Then all the other html "tags" that came afterwards, with NSCA Mosaic and Netscape and then W3C additions. Andreessen famously suggesting img etc. But TBL joined html with what else it needed to take over.

I haven't seen anyone link to it yet, so here is that first server (magnet link): https://gist.github.com/3404362

There was a Reddit effort to recover it some months back, as it was believed to be lost. (It's now on the w3.org page, but IIRC, either it wasn't then, or it's a slightly later version published there).


Link to a link? :)


Haha, thanks for the catch - I just copied that directly from a tweet. I couldn't tweet a magnet link (too long, and not supported by bit.ly) - hence the gist.

Anyway, please feel free to download this piece of history!

  However, it could start a revolution in information access
I'll say...

Today's version:

Show HN: My weekend project, WorldWideWeb (5 days from funding, Kickstarter details in comments!)

You know what's interesting? The immediate follow up to that first message, by Richard Chimera, mentions Randy Pausch. Does anybody remember him?


Small world.

I just read that and thought "meh...". I wonder how many such invention I pass everyday

In all fairness it was meh at its release. It didn't even support images.

But it was on August 6? Right?

OK, but why? I mean, who here hasn't seen this or know about it?

Yesterday was its 11th anniversary if for no other reason.

The Web is now old enough to drink! Let's buy the Web a drink.

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