Our ‘common information space’

May 17, 2019
by Mark Ollig

Tim Berners-Lee, an engineer and computer scientist, wrote the programming code we use to point and click our way through the web portion of the internet.

I say “portion,” because the web and the internet, despite what folks may think, are not synonymous with each other.

The internet is an interconnected global data network made up of computers, routers, gateways, and cables. TCP/IP communication protocols send and receive packets of information. A packet of data can be compared with an addressed envelope.

If you put the correct address on a packet and drop it off into any computer connected on the internet, the computer would figure out which path to send it down next, until the packet reaches its final destination.

The internet will deliver packets to an internet destination anywhere in the world using various protocols, and it does this very quickly – usually under one second.

“The web is simply a name for all the information you can get online,” said Berners-Lee.

In 1989, Berners-Lee, while working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, proposed a global hypertext space where any network-accessible information could be referred to by a Universal Document Identifier (UDI).

The UDI is known today as the Uniform Resource Locator or the URL we type when accessing a particular website.

Berners-Lee called his web creation, a “global hypertext system.”

By 1990, Berners-Lee finished programming the code for the web browser application, calling it a “WorldWideWeb Program.”

May 17, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee installed his newly-coded HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) software on his NeXTcube computer.

Berners-Lee’s NeXTcube computer had become the first web server connected to the internet.

Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web platform was operating as an overlay on the internet to support his newly-created web protocols.

Aug. 6, 1991, the first web page was created by Tim Berners-Lee on his NeXTcube computer and was publically-available over the internet.

This website was publicized by Berners-Lee on several internet newsgroups, including alt-groups such as alt.hypertext.

The eyes of internet users opened wide upon understanding the potential uses for websites.

The tremendous growth of new websites with unique themes over a global internet had begun in earnest; a new chapter in the lives of our virtual online community had begun.

The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1996, the undertaking of storing and preserving the rising number of webpages from the internet was started by an organization called the Internet Archive.

This organization began with a mission to preserve past and current internet webpages – and other types of online data – so future generations could look back, research, and educate themselves with the internet’s historical information as initially presented.

“The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet – a new medium with major historical significance – and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past,” their original mission statement said.

Each day, the Internet Archive collects, organizes, catalogs, and preserves web content from websites on the internet, and from the data files uploaded by the public.

This organization preserves and stores digital records for future generations, and offers historians, students, researchers, and you and me, access to the many thousands of digitally-saved historical collections.

These free collections contain a treasure trove of photographs, books, movies, music, audio files, software, educational and historical references, and archived internet web pages.

I think of the Internet Archive as a continuing collection of websites being stored in a digital time capsule.

As I have done, you too can upload videos, text, audio, and photos to be archived for current and future generations. To begin, you will need to obtain your Internet Archive virtual library card at http://bit.ly/2gxWGJV.

“The dream behind the Web is of a ‘common information space’ in which we communicate by sharing information,” said Berners-Lee in 1989.

Thirty years later, his dream has progressed from sharing information on websites to using specific web apps for monitoring, analyzing, and advancing information obtained from electronic devices which make up the Internet of Things.

The world’s first website can be seen at https://bit.ly/2V08wUe.

The Internet Archive website is https://archive.org.

Be sure to visit my weblog at https://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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