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Science & Tech

Happy birthday, World Wide Web

The World Wide Web turned 21 yesterday. Although it hasn’t been able to drink before yesterday, the web has witnessed plenty of porn, stupid arguments and cats doing funny things. On August 6th, 1991, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee typed his code, clicked his mouse and put the first website on-line.

Berners-Lee’s website didn’t feature dancing hamsters or trolling. The site focused on the WWW project, spreading the Internet gospel to anyone who’d listen. His site foreshadowed how strangely meta the net would become.

The site, http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, is still up and running, although the original appearance, which no one ever took a screenshot of, is lost to the annals of the Internet.

Nerds will be quick to point out that the actual Internet is much older than 21. The Internet was created by government scientists (way back when taxes actually went towards innovation) over a decade before Berners-Lee created his revolutionary website. The Internet is a system of networks connecting computers together. The World Wide Web, on the other hand, is the catalyst for human interaction on the Internet. The Internet’s networks are what make the web possible.

It would be easy to assume the father of the web was a Silicon Valley icon along the lines of Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs. Instead, Berners-Lee grew up in London and created the first website in France. Berners-Lee recently was put on a world stage in Danny Boyle’s Anglophilepalooza that was the 2012 London Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony. He live-tweeted in front of millions: “This is for everyone.”

Rewind to 1991. Berners-Lee created three critical inventions that made the Internet accessible for five-year-olds and 85-year-olds. He created uniform resource locators, or URLs, that gave files locations on the Internet. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the code that makes content possible on the web. Finally, HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) lets browsers and servers talk to each other.

Berners-Lee claimed on the day of the web’s birth that he was seeking collaborators. Twenty-one years later, about 2 billion people are clicking away with him.

Since the hopeful Brit typed the first lines of HTML code, we’ve had Amazon, Myspace, Napster, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Pets.com, Google, Words with Friends, and Youtube. Also, the publishing industry was more or less destroyed and the recording industry is holding on for dear life. Piracy is really, really easy. Also, the web helped the oppressed topple governments and scores of people find love. And porn. Lots and lots of porn.