The birth of the web

You’re able to read this sentence thanks to the internet, the vast network connecting millions of computers and mobile devices across the world. The internet has been around since the 1970s, but it was the advent of the World Wide Web that really got things going.

Enter the internet

Put simply, an ‘internet’ is a network of computers. The internet as we know it today stemmed from several isolated ‘internets’, perhaps the most influential being ARPANET, which connected defence research institutions in the US from 1969.

Throughout the 80s, the disparate networks in existence adopted common standards which allowed them to communicate with each other and merge into one gigantic network: the internet. These standards are part of what is known as the internet protocol or TCP/IP. Internet protocols are a bit like road rules - by agreeing to drive on the same side, to stop at red lights etc., sharing the same roads is made a whole lot easier.

Early internet users would have been familiar with email, file sharing (using FTP servers) and Usenet – the precursor to online forums. But the biggest revolution was yet to come.

Weaving the web

The user-friendly web we know today was the brainchild of CERN computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Working at particle physics lab CERN,  Berners-Lee invented http (hypertext transfer protocol), a set of rules allowing computers to exchange information easily. He went on to set up the first ever web server, and also invented html (hypertext markup language – the code used to build websites) and the first web browser.

Together, these inventions laid the foundations for the World Wide Web. For the first time, internet users could enter a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), access a website, click on links and browse through content.

The first ever website, built by Berners-Lee can still be seen online. It  looks fairly unremarkable, but only because webpages, links, URLs and browsers are now commonplace  – a testament to the success of Berners-Lee’s ideas.

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