As most inventions do, it started as solution to a problem. Tim was working at CERN with a few thousand other people from universities around the world. They brought many different kinds of computers running all types of software programs. To access the data on each different computer usually required a separate account and password and completely different procedures.
To put the organization of the information problem in perspective, think about how many different ways one can keep paper documents in a traditional filing cabinet. Think about something as simple as filing a Telephone bill. I might put in a folder called, “Verizon” for the company name. You might put it in a folder called, “Telephone.” Someone else might just file it in a general folder called, “Utility Bills.” Do you see the problem? Without a standard method of presenting the Telephone Bill to others, sharing information can become very tedious. Candidly, while at CERN Tim said, “Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee” [then to try to access their computers for the information.]
The question Tim answered, “Can’t we convert every information system so that it looks like part of some imaginary information system which everyone can read?” And that became the World Wide Web.
Tim went on to connect Hypertext, the language of Web Pages, to TCP, the Protocol that allows computers to talk with each other over a network, and DNS – The Domain Name System or global address book that does the lookup of a web site name and directs the request to the proper web server.
It was his ability to bring these three critical components together that makes the World Wide Web possible.
One of the most important aspects of Tim’s work is his desire that his invention be accepted as a standard and universally available to all. It is for this reason that it is an Open System. Tim stated that “you cannot propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.” (Personally I think that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates might have a different opinion on the ability to make something a de facto standard and cash in big on it.)
We should all thank Tim Berners-Lee for his genuine altruism. His invention of the World Wide Web truly is for everyone. No other technological innovation since the Gutenberg Press or the Telephone has had such a global impact.
To see the Website of the world’s very first web server, visit
The following page, although not the original due to updates is representative of the original web page that started it all:
For some excellent background on Tim Berners-Lee in his own words, check out:
Answers for Young People
Frequently Asked Questions
“Weaving the Web” Book by Tim Berners-Lee
For everything you ever wanted to know about the World Wide Web Standards