Dinner Table Conversation: What Is Your Most Radical Idea?

March 15, 2019

Paul Clarke [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Many people played a part in making the internet what it is today, but a good chunk of the credit goes to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British engineer credited with creating the World Wide Web thirty years ago. Wait, what does that mean exactly? Well, Berners-Lee started, as is often the case in science, with an interesting problem to solve. He noticed that people in his organization, CERN (a laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland), were having difficulties sharing information even though their computers were already connected via networks. In 1989, he submitted “Information Management: A Proposal,” which suggested that people could use hypertext—an emerging technology—to build ways to share information between connected computers.

As with most radical new ideas, people were resistant at first, and the proposal was not accepted. However, in 1990, he was given time to work on the concept using a NeXT computer (one of Steve Job’s earliest products!). By the end of the year, Berners-Lee wrote three fundamental ideas that are part of what you see in your everyday internet experience. The first is HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), which essentially became the language for building the web. The second is a URL (or Unique Resource Locator), which is a specific address for each resource (“http://www.minecraft.net” is an example of a URL). And finally, there’s HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), which allows for the transfer and retrieval of resources. Now you see why that HTTP in the Minecraft link makes sense, right?

Berners-Lee is impressed with how far the internet has come, but nowadays he’s also concerned about scammers and those who spread hate over the internet. So he’s working for a better web, urging companies and users to be responsible about what they do on the internet.

What is your most radical idea?


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