Mind Power

20 years ago yesterday, April 30 1993, CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear research, the developer of what has become the W.W.W. announced that they would open it up, making it free to all by posting the codes on what became the worlds first website.

A computer based communication system had existed since¬†1985, when the first “domain” name had been registered, but it was the private property of individual universities and research organisations.

To my mind, this single action by CERN management in 1993 was the catalyst for the revolution we have undergone in the last 20 years, and which is still continuing, and this revolution (I am looking for a stronger word than just “revolution”) is at least as significant as the realisation that steam could be used to drive machines, and you could set up a system to mass produce the printed word.

In a number of TED talks over the years, there has been some extraordinary contributions to our understanding of the impact this decision has had.

Clay Shirky has mused about the brainpower released, the cogitative surplus, by the web, Kevin Kelly makes observations and predictions about the development of the web, and Ray Kurzweil wonders at the continuously accelerating pace of innovation that is occurring. All have made the point that the world has changed.

Tim Berners-Lee, now Sir Tim, was the man. He wrote the protocols that underpin the web HTML, et al, while working as a software engineer at CERN. The project was a part time indulgence, a side project, but then it went public.

To my mind, this is almost equivalent to the Big Bang, the day the world started, anew.