25 years of the World Wide Web – a message from its dad

WWWSir Tim Berners-Lee, or just plain Tim as he was known back then, came up with the idea of the world wide web 25 years ago this week while working at CERN.

And although the web has been used for its fair share of unpleasantness and hatred, I don’t think any of us can deny the enormous positive difference it has made to many of our lives.

As part of the celebrations, a special 25th anniversary website has been created, where Sir Tim raises the important question of how can the web be made better.

We have much to do for the Web to reach its full potential. We must continue to defend its core principles and tackle some key challenges. To name just three:

* How do we connect the nearly two-thirds of the planet who can’t yet access the Web?
* Who has the right to collect and use our personal data, for what purpose and under what rules?
* How do we create a high-performance open architecture that will run on any device, rather than fall back into proprietary alternatives?

Simple questions to ask, and concepts which I am sure most those reading would support, but perhaps much more complicated to agree on answers and accomplish.

Of course, this is a security news site – and one of the things that we have witnessed has been the rising exploitation of websites by malware authors and hackers to spread their attacks.

Nowadays, a common way for online criminals to spread their trojans is to compromise legitimate websites, and infect the computers of users visiting them.

And poorly protected websites, created by sloppy developers or running software that hasn’t been properly patched, can be a treasure trove for hackers wanting to steal data from businesses and expose the personal information of their customers.

When I first got onto the internet, the web didn’t exist.

The most sophisticated thing I could do from my student workstation was fire an email off to an FTPmail server, requesting a remote directory listing be emailed back to me and then – if you were lucky – request that a particular file be sent in UUEncoded format back via email.

List.comWithin a few hours, if I hadn’t made any syntax errors, I’d have in my hands a copy of PKArc (the predecessor to PKZIP) or Vernon D Buerg’s LIST.COM. Those were the days when .com didn’t mean website.

It was clunky, it was slow, but I didn’t know any better.

It’s exciting to think about how much the world has changed because of the world wide web in the last 25 years, and how rapidly technology is changing the way we live.

By the way, if you’re interested in hearing more from Tim Berners-Lee, he’s giving a keynote address later this month at the LawTech Futures conference in London. I’ll be speaking in a separate session about the threats posed by hackers to the legal sector.

If any of you are there, please say hello. But most importantly, thank Sir Tim for dreaming up the concept of the WWW all those years ago.

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3 Responses

  1. Greybeard March 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    list.com…

    Now there is a blast from the past!! :-)

  2. Kent Dorfman March 14, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    I thought Al Gore invented the internet.

    • Coyote March 24, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      Wherever that comes from I do not know. I imagine he said something that was either taken out of context or was made to be a joke and/or people hearing, seeing and believing what they want to. But what I do know is we're _NOT_ discussing the INTERNET. The Internet is simply this: A network of networks. (Similar is an intranet.)

      The _world wide web_ is what Tim created and that is what this article is about. The WWW _uses_ the Internet and the protocols involved (e.g., HTTP, HTTPS) are a small portion (small is actually a huge overstatement) of protocols that exist. I'm not even considering lower layers in the OSI model, either (as in: the applications that you are familiar with that work with the Internet would be nothing without the lower layers since the applications rely on the fact that they can transmit data between hosts). The protocols work together; the web relies on TCP (transmission control protocol) and IP (internet protocol) as well as (sort of "relies on") ICMP. The first is a reliable (reliable = will retransmit lost packets, for example) connection oriented stream and the second is where network addressing (there also exists hardware addressing but that is different), routing and the like occur (hence "IP address"). Without an IP address (which host names like google.com resolve to) you wouldn't be able to connect to it let alone be using it to search the web, read your webmail, or use any other service Google offers. The third, ICMP is for error reporting. You might have heard of 'ping'? Ping uses ICMP echo requests and receives (unless an administrator is naive enough to filter all ICMP traffic with no regard… and sadly many are indeed so naive because they are under the incorrect assumption that it helps with security) ICMP echo replies. But ping is not the only use of ICMP. Obviously all of this is very simplified and not meant to be concise or precise as that's what the RFCs (request for comments) are for (and the fact I could not recite every single detail if I were to try 1000 times).

      The Internet, meanwhile, exists solely because of a project by the US Darpa (defence advance research project agency if I am thinking OK enough at this point) in the days of the Cold War. It was meant to be a network of networks that could withstand a nuclear attack. It evolved in to what we have today – the Internet. The project was known as the arpanet and there are still references to ARPA to this day (under the hood for most people but for network administrators, or at least administrators of DNS servers, it is not so under the hood).

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