Where was the web invented?

by on January 26, 2012 at 1:47 am in History, Web/Tech | Permalink

From David Galbraith, via Kottke:

I’ll bet if you asked every French politician where the web was invented not a single one would know this. The Franco-Swiss border runs through the CERN campus and building 31 is literally just a few feet into France. However, there is no explicit border within CERN and the main entrance is in Switzerland, so the situation of which country it was invented in is actually quite a tricky one. The current commemorative plaque, which is outside a row of offices where people other than Tim Berners-Lee worked on the web, is in Switzerland. To add to the confusion, in case Tim thought of the web at home, his home was in France but he temporarily moved to rented accommodation in Switzerland, just around the time the web was developed. So although, strictly speaking, France is the birthplace of the web it would be fair to say that it happened in building 31 at CERN but not in any particular country! How delightfully appropriate for an invention which breaks down physical borders.

dearieme January 26, 2012 at 2:49 am

Where was the double helix surmised? There’s a plaque on the wall of a lab building in Cambridge, but the wrong building (or so I am told). The correct building was in use as a bike shed when the time came to put the plaque up, so it was affixed to a neighbouring, more respectable, edifice.

anon January 26, 2012 at 6:32 am

Where was the double helix surmised?

I seem to recall hearing it was in a pub. But maybe it was just announced in a pub?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_%28pub%29

dearieme January 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Yeah, Jim Watson has them going to The Eagle and making a fuss. Hell, I can do that. Though with less reason.

Name Nomad January 26, 2012 at 7:31 am

Does it really matter which tribe’s imaginary lines surround an event or innovation?

Arnold Kling January 26, 2012 at 8:10 am

If you look at culture and policy, the Internet is definitely not a French invention. France invented Minitel, a classic dirigist exercise. The decentralized Internet is much more Swiss in character.

albert magnus January 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Its better to say that it was created by the physics community which is highly international and needed to share information throughout the world.

Millian January 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Yes, obviously if you assume that France cannot invent open technologies, then France did not invent an open technology.

PrometheeFeu January 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

The Internet is not the same thing as the Web. Minitel services were actually often provided by private companies leading to the creation of large numbers of start-ups. So while the Minitel itself was an exercise in dirigism (which my countrymen to my sorrow would take to be a compliment) the services on it were largely the result of free enterprise. The big difference between the Web and Minitel services is that you would generally connect directly to a Minitel service which meant they could not link between each other easily. An important difference, but not really anything to do with French dirigisme vs Swiss decentralization.

rocinante January 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

> Where was the web invented?

By Al, in Wonderland?

(Evidence: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” – Al Gore)

Crickets January 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

Chirp.

The Original D January 26, 2012 at 10:47 am
Baphomet January 27, 2012 at 5:21 am

That is one the the most pathetic “debunkings” I have ever seen. Al Gore never said he INVENTED the Internet! He only said he CREATED it!

JWatts January 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

“I took initiative in creating the Internet”, Senator Al Gore

No one seriously thinks Al Gore was working on computers and data communication protocols in his spare time. But, many people think he was pompous & conceited and remarks like that one are very credible evidence to that end.

andy January 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

Cern was among those, who produced linked documents on a computer; the format used by Cern happened to be used by NCSA and their graphical web browser Mosaic. Because it was nice (it had images!!) and quite easy to use, it was soon adopted by many people to produce content and because of network effects and path-dependency is used today.

Just wonder how appropriate it is to use the word ‘invent’ when the ‘invention’ is just an application of some rather simple idea, that because of network effects happens to be used all over the world. It seems to me that inventions in IT are rather overemphasized.

Yancey Ward January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Everyone knows Obama invented the damned thing!

Nyongesa January 27, 2012 at 2:59 am

Your jokes while partisan are usually quite good, but…..

Andrew' January 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I know everything looks obvious in hindsight, and the same might go for many innovations but I’m always a particularly irritated at the implication that no one else ever would have thought to put a wire between two computers.

Andreas Moser January 29, 2012 at 3:56 am

My internet even works without a wire.
Well, sometimes. When I am in the living room.

PrometheeFeu January 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I would bet you that if you ask any French politician where the Web was invented, they will say France without missing a beat. The facts are irrelevant. My countrymen like to claim credit whether it is due or not.

Rahul January 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm

… unfortunately that last part is not true of your countrymen alone.

PrometheeFeu January 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Agreed.

Charles T. Wolverton January 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Contemporary users of “the web” (AKA WWW, which is not = “the Internet”, which predates WWW by a couple of decades and was “invented” in the US, mostly CA and MA) with its 10s (100s?) of millions of sites might find the original “search engine” amusing. Circa 1990, having downloaded a browser (from NCSA, as I recall), I soon discovered a site that had a hand created (no html tools back then) list of all known web sites (at least all those known as of that day to that site’s webmaster). As I recall, the complete list was at most a handful of screens, maybe 50-ish sites. A “search} amounted to scanning down the list to see if any had been added since your last visit. Even in those early days, the WWW growth rate was high and the list became unmanageable in short order.

DK January 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I think people not familiar with a history of Internet tend to overstate the importance of WWW. People communicated and exchanged information just fine using email, BBS, IRC, Usenet and Gopher well before first Mosaic was publicly downloadable. It was just a matter of time when graphics and linking of some sorts were introduced, HTTP or not.

Charles T. Wolverton January 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm

True, people – mostly techies – were already communicating via the Internet, but not very many. Eg, I worked for a space technology company a few employees of which had participated in developing the Internet, but it didn’t even have company-wide e-mail or Internet access until shortly before WWW emerged. The significance of WWW was that it laid the groundwork for widespread use of the Internet.

TheRadicalModerate January 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Maybe the problem is that we knew Tim Berners-Lee’s momentum too precisely.

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