World Wide Web, birth of the network that changed the world

World Wide Web, birth of the network that changed the world

World Wide Web

On August 6, 1991, the World Wide Web was officially born, known to most people by the abbreviation Web and reported in the name of all sites in the form of the acronym WWW. It all began in 1980, when Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, was hired at CERN as a consultant in the field of software engineering. Right from the start he focused on how to make the information, which was constantly and rapidly increasing at CERN, storable and usable. In 1989 he presented a document entitled Information Management: a Proposal (the original paper is available online here).

In the paper he explains how, based on the work he was doing with his colleague Robert Cailliau, the internet could be used to share scientific documentation in electronic format. The goal is to improve sharing and cooperation between the institute's researchers through a format independent of the platforms used. He develops himself, on his Next Cube, the first Web server and the first browser, exploiting the idea of ​​hypertext (theoretically introduced by Ted Nelson in 1965).

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Internet and World Wide Web are not the same thing?

The first question that could arise spontaneously is: “What difference is there is it between the Internet and the Web? ”. In fact, nowadays the extension and diffusion of the Web is such as to have completely flattened, in common speech, the two concepts into a single element. In fact, however, this is not the case. Internet is the infrastructure on which all the services we have are based and it is, simplifying, the most physical part: when we turn on our modem or our router, we are using a physical device to connect to the network.

The configuration of ARPANET in 1970

The second The question that arises spontaneously is: but if there was no Web, what was the Internet for? From the very beginning, the internet supported data transmission or connection protocols between computers: it was possible to access computers remotely through the command line (telnet), or you could send simple messages (sendmsg) and transfer files (ftp, a protocol that is still very popular today. used and known). In 1971, electronic mail was also introduced which, therefore, predates the invention of the World Wide Web by eighteen years.

Tim Berners-Lee in 1991 - Copyright CERN

The World Wide Web from 1991 to the present day

The Web was born in the field of research and remained there until 1993, when CERN, through the voice of the director Carlo Rubbia, specifies that it is not his job to deal with the industrial promotion of the World Wide Web, even though he regards the idea as brilliant. At the same time, CERN decides to make the WWW available to everyone, releasing the source code in the public domain.

Tim Berners-Lee therefore leaves CERN to continue the development of his creation with MIT, where he will then merge the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in October 1994. The W3C is a non-governmental organization that defines all the technical standards useful for the development of the service and deals with the growth of the WWW (the motto is in fact "Leading the Web to Its Full Potential ").

The NEXT server on which the first site was published - cc by Coolcaesar

The expansion of the Web continues and gradually changes from publication tool, as an instrument of cultural, political and economic emancipation, alongside and, in some cases, replacing the role of other media. In 2009 Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit foundation that deals with the expansion of global access to the World Wide Web, guaranteeing its security, independence and free access in order to improve people's lives. The social aspect of the Web is fundamental and is reiterated by its inventor on several occasions, in particular in the book The architecture of the new Web where he wrote:

"The Web is more a 'social innovation than a' technical innovation. I designed it to have a social impact, to help people collaborate, and not as a technological toy. "

Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 2014 CC by Paul Clarke

The technological aspects are therefore accompanied by other increasingly important concepts, such as those relating to accessibility (both in terms of freedom and content censorship, both in terms of the right of access for disabled people), usability and privacy. Information security is also an increasingly sensitive issue: the Web is one of the main vehicles for new types of scams and the spread of viruses; the passage of many financial transactions on the platform (just think of home banking) makes the instrument the center of attention, both malicious and benevolent.

The World Wide Web in the collective imagination

Over the years, the use of the Web has spread in many different directions and has spread more and more, so much so that it has become almost a synonym for the Internet, at least among non-professionals. Today the Web is a phenomenon that involves almost five billion people and is part of the collective imagination, so much so that it has become the focal point of cinema and television and a supporting actor, sometimes silent, always present.

Already yes talks about the Web in 1995, in the film The Net, with Sandra Bullock: the film deals with online identity theft, but the subject is complex and the writers are unable to make it understandable to the public. The representations of the World Wide Web are always very simplified and remain so for a long time: Codex Swordfish is still released in 2001, a film with an exceptional cast (John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle) which, however, still fails in the representation of the Web (fortunately ancillary to the plot).

The Net

There are several strands that have drawn heavily from the Web: ranging from horror, which have dealt with the danger of anonymity or malicious intrusion into people's lives (#Horror, FeardotCom, Unfriended: Dark Web), to those of denunciation (the most famous in this sense is certainly the controversial The circle, with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson; less famous but much more interesting Hard Candy, with a very young Ellen Page, never released in Italian cinemas, deals with the topic of online solicitation of minors by pedophiles), passing through the bibliographic ones (The Social Network, which has cashed in more than d two hundred million dollars, but also Snowden, a film directed by Oliver Stone and which tells the story of a former CIA technician who reveals secret documents of the American intelligence agency) or comedians (for example, The Interns, with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn or Sex Tape with Cameron Diaz).

As we get closer to the present, cinematography seems to have more and more confidence with the subject and the public is more mature: thus we arrive at the aforementioned The Circle , but also to much more particular products, such as Guns Akimbo (insane splatter film) or Ralph Breaks the Internet (animated film set within the network).

Black Mirror

The world of TV series has responded more slowly but has also produced the product that better than any other has managed to describe the world of the Web and the network in its most absurd recesses, its contradictions and its potential more extreme: Black Mirr or. The successful English series (now produced by Netflix and gone down a bit in tones) has managed to distill the essence of different elements of the Web (privacy, gamification, control, the role of social networks) and re-proposed it in a futuristic world that frightens for its crudeness and its topicality.

Finally, The Good Wife deserves a particular mention: the famous and award-winning series has in fact collected a lot of acclaim for having told the influence of social media and internet about society, politics and laws, all since 2011.

What the World Wide Web is today

The world of the World Wide Web has slowly entered our lives and will continue to be more and more pervasive: expansion continues at an impressive pace, technology is constantly looking for new solutions to increase its potential and on political tables discussions about ethics, rights and equality are unleashed. The path made by that simple little page published by Tim Berners-Lee in the not so distant 1991 is impressive.

The history of the World Wide Web, told directly by its inventor, is narrated in the book Weaving the Web : from the beginnings in the CERN laboratories to the affirmation as a global phenomenon, without forgetting to take a look at the future of this planetary phenomenon.

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