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World Wide Web comes of age

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World Wide Web comes of age

The World Wide Web is 21 years old – and has changed the way most companies and individuals work, live and play.

On 6 August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee’s first web site, at CERN, went live.

Berners-Lee actually invented the World Wide Web, an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing in 1989 while at CERN. He wrote the first web client and server in 1990.

His specifications of URIs, HTTP and HTML were refined as web technology spread.

“According to the World Bank, for every 10% increase in high speed Internet connection, there is an increase in economic growth of 1,3 percentage points,” comments Frost & Sullivan’s team leader for ICT Africa Ian Duvenage. “Although the internet is not the Web, the access to information is a critical part of the increase in economic activity

“ From the rural farmer gaining access to trading location for maize in Kenya, to the crowd sourcing of business models for Netflix, access to individuals, information and ideas are driving society at a pace far greater than ever before in history.”

Berners-Lee says the dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information.

“Its universality is essential: the fact that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished,” he says.

“There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we work and play and socialise. That was that once the state of our interactions was on line, we could then use computers to help us analyse it, make sense of what we are doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together.”

He says he is generally happy at how the World Wide Web has panned out, but believes there are areas that could be improved.

“I am very happy at the incredible richness of material on the Web, and in the diversity of ways in which it is being used. There are many parts of the original dream which are not yet implemented. For example, very few people have and easy, intuitive tool for putting their thoughts into hypertext. And many of the reasons for, and meaning of, links on the web is lost. But these can, and I think will, change.”