June 1999 Troubleshooting Professional Magazine: More Heroes, and a Trip to Linux Expo

Copyright (C) 1999 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved. Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for perpetual use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to the copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.

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By Steve Litt
When I screw up, I do it big. I refer to this lovely mistake from last months magazine, the "Marc" article: "The interface was called Mosaic, the first web browser."

BzzzT: Wrong!

There were web browsers before Mosaic, and more importantly, it took Tim Berners-Lee to conceive of global hypertext as a system for storing non structured global data. Here's what happened:

In 1980, as a programming consultant at CERN, Tim wrote a program using links between arbitrary nodes. Then those ideas incubated for nine years. In 1989, now a CERN employee, he wrote a proposal for information management using hypertext. In 1990 the proposal was OK'ed, and Tim got a NeXT cube to develop it on (by the way, when I discussed Steve Jobs last month I entirely left out the huge contribution of NeXT).

By December 1990, Tim had a running version of his program called WorldWideWeb, the world's first GUI web browser (at least according to my research). It ran on NeXT. WorldWideWeb was also a web editor, a la the old Netscape Gold. At the same time, a student working with Tim, Nicola Pellow, got a line mode browser working. Tim wrote the first WWW server, called httpd (surprise, surprise), but I've been unable to find out when. It was presumably before November 1992, when according to http://www.w3.org/History.html, there were "26 resoanably [sic] reliable servers".

Browsers Midas, Erwise, and Viola, all for X, and an alpha version of CERN Mac appear to have pre-dated Mosaic.

Tim Berners-Lee was the one who created the "Web".

Skip ahead to May 24, 1999, last page of InfoWorld magazine, column "From the Ether" by Bob Metcalfe (yes, I know, I left out the father of Ethernet and founder of 3com -- gotta stop somewhere). Metcalfe reports that Tim Berners-Lee, now the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is now advocating killer-app meta-language XML, which is overseen by W3C. Tim's still leading the charge.

Steve Litt can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.