An act of desperationTim worked on his project for more than a year. Tim gave Mesh a new name, the World Wide Web, and at the end of 1990 he presented to CERN the world’s first website, the first Web server, and the first Web browser. The website was very simple: it described what the World Wide Web was, and how Web technology worked. The scientists at CERN finally got what they needed. “Creating the Web,” said Tim “was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult.” Over the next two years Tim and other scientists at CERN continued developing the Web. In 1993 CERN made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty-free basis. This meant that everybody could use it for free. Tim explains: “we were more interested in the excitement of making something useful than in getting rich.”
A present to the worldThe World Wide Web became more than ‘something useful’. It revolutionized modern life. Today, thirty years after it was invented, some four billion people, about half of the world’s population, use it. There are now more than 1.5 billion websites. The Web is a tremendous source of information: it allows easy access to all kinds of documents, for example, this very article. The Web is also used to communicate, to work, to shop and for entertainment purposes. Tim imagined his creation to be a democratic arena with no central authority: everybody could use it to interact and share knowledge. In a way, the Web does what Tim wanted it to do, but it is also true that the Web has developed in unexpected and sometimes negative ways. Tim himself says that ‘the Web has failed in many places’.
Caught in the WebTim points out how today giant corporations such as Facebook, Google and Amazon monopolize everything that happens online. They possess an enormous amount of private information on all their users. Tim Berners-Lee is currently working on a new platform called Solid to re-decentralize the Web. Others like him are helping to make the Web a safe and democratic space once again. In the meantime, it is important to reflect on how dependent we are on being connected. In 1909, the British writer E.M. Forster wrote a prescient science fiction short story called The Machine Stops about a future where every human being lives alone in a room, served by an all-powerful Machine. The Machine provides them with everything, from music to food to clothing. Through the Machine a person can get to know thousands of people, but the Machine only gives “a general idea of people.” So humans live connected but isolated, with only a vague idea of each other. Interacting with the real world causes “the terrors of direct experience.” Forster’s story suggests that we have to be careful of how much we let technology control our lives and our social interactions. Technology needs to be a tool, not a master.
Useful links 1) Learn more about Tim Berners-Lee and the creation of the World Wide Web: https://webfoundation.org/about/vision/history-of-the-web/ 2) Here is some interesting information about Tim Berners-Lee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mhpQd3GNDs 3) Check out this video explaining what the World Wide Web is. (You can add subtitles to help you out): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8hzJxb0rpc 4) What’s the difference between the internet and the World Wide Web? It’s explained here: https://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Internet/Web_vs_Internet.asp 5) Check out the world’s first Website. You can even surf the Web using a re-creation of the first Web browser: https://home.cern/science/computing/birth-web
COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. Mike Sendall believed that Tim’s idea___ (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Enrico Bergianti, Southbank Centre, flickr)
- needed more work.
- was not very good.
- was perfect the way it was.
- their projects were too large and complex.
- it was difficult to manage all the information created by large projects.
- Tim’s proposal did not solve their problem.
- to impress his boss.
- to help CERN scientists.
- to solve a computer problem.
- is owned by CERN.
- was sold, making Tim a rich man.
- was given away for free by CERN.
- is used for many different purposes.
- has more websites than users.
- has developed the way Tim wanted it to develop.
- for entertainment purposes.
- for scientific reasons.
- in a democratic way.
- are a good thing.
- are too powerful.
- spread fake news.
- know very little about their users.
- know many things about their users.
- are interested in de-centralizing the Web.
- not as democratic as it used to be.
- controlled by government agencies.
- is a good thing.
- helps people interact with the real world.
- is not a substitute for direct experience.