Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One Enquire Within upon Everything
When I first began tinkering with a software program that even-tually gave rise to the idea of the World Wide Web, I named it Enquire, short for "Enquire Within upon Everything," a musty old book of Victorian advice I noticed as a child in my parents' house outside London. With its title suggestive of magic, the book served as a portal to a world of information, everything from how to remove clothing stains to tips on investing money. Not a perfect analogy for the Web, but a primitive starting point.
What that first bit of Enquire code led me to was something much larger, a vision encompassing the decentralized, organic growth of ideas, technology, and society. The vision I have for the 'Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything. It is a vision that provides us with new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound our-selves. It leaves the entirety of our previous ways of working as just one tool among many. It leaves our previous fears for the future as one set among many. And it brings the workings of society closer to the workings of our minds.
Unlike "Enquire Within upon Everything," the Web that I have tried to foster is, not merely a vein of information to be mined, nor is it just a reference or research tool. Despite the fact that the ubiquitous "www" and ."com" now fuel electronic commerce and stock markets all over the world, this is a large, but just one, part of the Web. Buying books from Amazon.com and stocks from E-trade is not all there is to the Web. Neither is the Web some idealized space where we mustremove our shoes, eat only fallen fruit, and eschew commercialization.
The irony is that in all its various guises-commerce, research, and surfing-the Web is already so much a part of our lives that familiarity has clouded our perception of the Web itself. To understand the Web in the broadest and deepest sense, to fully partake of the vision that I and my colleagues share, one must understand how the Web came to be.
The story of how the Web was created has been told in various books and magazines. Many accounts I've read have been distorted or just plain wrong. The Web resulted from many influences on my mind, half-formed thoughts, disparate conversations, and seem-ingly disconnected experiments. I pieced it together as I pursued my regular work and personal life. I articulated the vision, wrote the first Web programs, and came up with the now pervasive acronyms URL (then UDI), HTTP, HTML, and, of course, World Wide Web. But many other people, most of them unknown, con-tributed essential ingredients, in much the same almost random fashion. A group of individuals holding a common dream and working together at a distance brought about a great change.
My telling of the real story will show how the Web's evolu-tion and its essence are inextricably linked. Only by understand- ing the Web at this deeper level will people ever truly grasp what its full potential can be.
Journalists have always asked me what the crucial idea was, or what the singular event was, that allowed the Web to exist one day when it hadn't the day before. They are frustrated when I tell them there was no "Eureka!" moment. It was not like the legendary apple falling on Newton's head to demonstrate the concept ofgravity. Inventing the World Wide Web involved my growing realization that there was a power in arranging ideas in an unconstrained, weblike way. And that awareness came to me through precisely that kind of process. The Web arose as the answer to an open challenge, through the swirling together of influences, ideas, and realizations from many sides, until, by the wondrous offices of the human mind, a new concept jelled. It was a process of accretion, not the linear solving of one well-defined problem after another.
One day when I came home from high school, I found my father working on a speech for Basil de Ferranti. He was reading books on the brain, looking for clues about how to make a com-puter intuitive, able to complete connections as the brain did. We discussed the point; then my father went on to his speech and I went on to my homework. But the idea stayed with me that com-puters could becomemuch more powerful if they could be pro-grammed to link otherwise unconnected information.
This challenge stayed on my mind throughout my studies at Queen's College at Oxford University, where I graduated in 1976 with a degree in physics. It remained in the background when I built my own computer with an early microprocessor, an old television, and a soldering iron, as well as during the few years I spent as a software engineer with Plessey Telecommunications and with D.G. Nash Ltd.
Then, in 1980, 1 took a brief software consulting job with CERN the famous European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva. That's where I wrote Enquire, my first weblike program. I wrote it in my spare time and for my personal use, and for no loftier reason than to help me remember the connections among the various people, computers, and projects at the lab. Still, the larger vision had taken firm root in my consciousness.
Hailed by "Time" magazine as one of the 100 greatest minds of the century, Tim Berners-Lee, the genius behind the Internet, reveals where it came from, reflects on its impact, and predicts where it is headed.
Named one of the greatest minds of the 20th century by Time, Tim Berners-Lee is responsible for one of that century's most important advancements: the world wide web. Now, this low-profile genius-who never personally profitted from his invention -offers a compelling protrait of his invention. He reveals the Web's origins and the creation of the now ubiquitous http and www acronyms and shares his views on such critical issues as censorship, privacy, the increasing power of softeware companies , and the need to find the ideal balance between commercial and social forces. He offers insights into the true nature of the Web, showing readers how to use it to its fullest advantage. And he presents his own plan for the Web's future, calling for the active support and participation of programmers, computer manufacturers, and social organizations to manage and maintain this valuable resource so that it can remain a powerful force for social change and an outlet for individual creativity.
About the Author
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, is currently the director of theWorld Wide Web Consortium, the coordinating body for Web development, and heoccupies the 3Com Founders chair at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science.Recipient of numerous awards, he received the distinguished MacArthurFellowship in 1998. He lives in Cambridge, MA.
Table of Contents
Enquire within upon everything -- Tangles, links, and webs -- info.cern.ch -- Protocols: simple rules for global systems -- Going global -- Browsing -- Changes -- Consortium -- Competition and consensus -- Web of people -- Privacy -- Mind to mind -- Machines and the Web -- Weaving the Web.