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posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 03 2023, @10:58PM   Printer-friendly

Software vendors and the EU weren’t interested, so giving it away became the best option:

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on Sunday celebrated the 30th anniversary of releasing the World Wide Web into the public domain.

As the World Wide Web Consortium's brief history of the web explains, in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee - then a fellow at CERN - proposed that the organization adopt "a global hypertext system." His first name for the project was "Mesh".

And as the Consortium records, in 1990 Berners-Lee set to work on "a hypertext GUI browser+editor using the NeXTStep development environment. He makes up 'WorldWideWeb' as a name for the program."

Berners-Lee's work gathered a very appreciative audience inside CERN, and soon started to attract attention elsewhere. By January 1993, the world had around 50 HTTP servers. The following month, the first graphical browser – Marc Andreessen's Mosaic – appeared.

Alternative hypertext tools, like Gopher, started to lose their luster.

On April 30, 1993, CERN signed off on a decision that the World Wide Web – a client, server, and library of code created under its roof – belonged to humanity (the letter was duly stamped on May 3).

"CERN relinquishes all intellectual property rights to this code, both source and binary form, and permission is granted for anyone to use, duplicate, modify and redistribute it" states a letter signed on that day by Walter Hoogland and Helmut Weber – at the time respectively CERN's director of research and director of administration.

In a video posted to CERN's celebration of 30 years of a free and open web Hoogland shared a story of recognizing the significance of the web, and trying to interest commercial software companies in the tech.

All passed.

He next tried to convince the European Union to promote the web and make it an exemplar of local ingenuity, but came away thinking that the organization would take too long to make that happen.

The decision to release code to the public domain was therefore easy.

[...] CERN later decided an open source licence was a better idea for the web than a complete free-for-all. But that doesn't diminish the significance of the anniversary.

So raise a glass and pour one out for the web - CERN has done so, digitally, with a Web@30 celebration site.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Thursday May 04 2023, @02:47AM

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Thursday May 04 2023, @02:47AM (#1304635)

    All of human knowledge accessible to everybody
    Instant communication with anybody on Earth
    Science across borders
    Out-of-control advertisement
    Uquitous ultra-invasive corporate surveillance
    Depressing Facebook pseudo socializing
    Twitter-organized coups
    Inane Tiktok dancing teens

    Yeah it's been great. But it seems to have been going downhill a bit for the past 25 years.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by canopic jug on Friday May 05 2023, @08:14AM (3 children)

    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 05 2023, @08:14AM (#1304858) Journal

    Unfortunately, Tim turned around and in 2017 endorsed the death of the open web through Encrypted Media Extensions [defectivebydesign.org]. And with that, the open web ended, albeit with a long tail.

    EME are not the only threat, there are also a growing number of sites which have replaced their pages with "web apps" which rather than delivering documents to be rendered by the client, misuse the client as a cheap-ass, javascrtipt-based virtual machine running unsigned, proprietary code of unknown provenance and function.

    --
    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Friday May 05 2023, @06:30PM (2 children)

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 05 2023, @06:30PM (#1304912) Journal

      Is it time to build a new one from the ground up?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by canopic jug on Saturday May 06 2023, @04:21AM (1 child)

        by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 06 2023, @04:21AM (#1304960) Journal

        Is it time to build a new one from the ground up?

        Nominally it would be time to start over but the problem which killed the old WWW is not just around but still growing. That is the control that Apple+Google(Alphabet)+Facebook(Meta)+Wikipedia have and exercise over the net in general and the web in particular.

        Rather than push back against bloated sites, those companies have tweaked their systems to reward bloated sites and poor design. That includes a push towards monstrously large and slow, convoluted "Single Page Web Applications" as well as undermining the basic protocol so that HTTP/3 goes inappropriately over UDP so that much of the networking load is pushed upwards into the application layer. New web "developers" don't even know the basics any more and appear to just cargo cult various whole frameworks without the ability to work with basic libraries or even the underlying static HTML + CSS.

        Something like 85% of client devices are now either Android or iOS. So in order to make a new network these days, you'd have to get both Apple and Google to participate in a constructive manner at some level, at a task which they are likely to see as either hurting their reach for more control or at the most not sufficiently enhancing their reach for more control.

        There are things like Gemini, but those will remain niche. Gemini will not fix its inability to handle large files, for example. It works fine for small text files for the most part, though.

        For broader example, one could also look at how Alphabet, Apple, Meta, M$, and several others have each been undermining e-mail in an effort to gain sole control.

        So it's possible to start anew but there are high barriers from the supply side. On the demand side you'd have to compete with not just network effects from massive sites which have not only dug in but optimized for engagement / addiction [theatlantic.com]. On that front, you'd have to fight psychological factors like severe addiction.

        --
        Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 06 2023, @05:29AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 06 2023, @05:29AM (#1304965)

          Niche can be good.

          The big fight will be against AI-generated spam.

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