Did you know that…

The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, who envisioned an open, universal information system connecting all people.  Now, despite the fact that many attribute to Tim Berner’s Lee the expression the read and write web and that he has been going on it since forever, he is not the one who coined the expression.  Likewise, long before the terms “read and write” or “Web 2.0” (the trendy commercial term Web 2.0 popularized after the O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004) suggested that there was a turning point in the use of the web, many of the ideas had already been featured in implementations on networked systems.

The phrase “read/write web” in today’s sense first appeared in Edd Dumbill’s blurb for his site writetheweb.com in 2000. In 2001, Dave Winer built a website called The Two Way Web, which articulates a vision of publishing where the “content and the editing environment (are) totally integrated”. Richard MacManus (2003) connected the phrase with Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision of an easily and intuitively editable Web. Dan Gillmor then used it as a chapter heading in his We the Media ⁠(2004), complete with the quasi-attribution to Berners-Lee. This quasi-attribution got cemented in the title of a BBC interview in which Berners-Lee validated blogs and wikis as forms of web authoring that reflect his original vision. In a podcast interview for IBM,  Tim Berners-Lee described the term “Web 2.0” as a “piece of jargon.” “Nobody really knows what it means,” he said, and went on to say that “if Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.” (text script)

Berner’s Lee campaigned straight from the beginning for browser makers to build editors into their software rather than just make browsing clients. He failed getting this wish past the Mosaic people in 1993/94, who came up with the first widely popular Web browser, and from there on out the idea of an editing/browsing client has been a losing proposition. The W3C came out with a proof-of-concept browser named Amaya, but the W3C has always been funded by big Internet companies such as Microsoft and Netscape –so it couldn’t possibly compete in the browser market with its own financial backers.

In 1999 , my students and I published on a web that was already a “free” platform and connected schools.  Highwired Network, Inc. ended up as the finalist of the Moot Corp in 1998 for having created “an intuitive, web-based tool that allows high school teachers and students to publish customized, on-line school newspapers at zero cost.” Watch mpg (rm file) announcing the product.  In 2000,  HighWired.com achieved to raise a second round of financing ($30 million) in venture capital and while Don Young, president and CEO at the time  announced confidently “HighWired.com is well positioned to stay at the forefront of the industry”, the company collapsed in 2001 like many others of the dot-com bubble. Before it did, however,  I managed to retrieve the work my students had published online for their classroom newspaper, The Classmate since 1999.  In 2003, they started blogging . I only gathered up courage a year after in January 2004. (5th anniversary this month!)

Almost twenty years after he invented the Web, Tim Berners-Lee is now leading the effort to create the World Wide Web Foundation (“Web Foundation”) as the next phase of fulfilling his original vision: the Web as humanity connected by technology. The mission of the Foundation is:

  • to advance One Web that is free and open,
  • to expand the Web’s capability and robustness,
  • and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet.

The Web Foundation is currently developing plans to fund projects around the world through these strategically integrated programs:

Tim Berner’s Lee, one of the VIP guest invited by the FLOSS community,  launches the  Campus Party Brasil event on Monday, January 19th and a plenary session on the Semantic Web (dubbed Web 3.0) is scheduled for Tuesday 20th.

Leave a Comment