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Back To When It All Started: 3 Decades Of The World Wide Web

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So if you're listening to this show online, you can thank one man in particular.

(SOUNDBITE OF NPR BROADCAST)

TIM BERNERS-LEE: I say, look. You just click on this, and it takes you to another page.

GREENE: That's British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee describing his biggest invention, the World Wide Web.

NOEL KING, HOST:

On this day in 1990, Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for this project he had an idea for. He was working at a nuclear research lab in Geneva, and he needed a way to share information between the computers more easily.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BERNERS-LEE: I never had a formal go-ahead for the World Wide Web as a formal project. But my boss, Mike Sendall, he just had a twinkle in his eye as he said, I'll think about it.

GREENE: The Internet already existed at that point, but there was no way for computers to all access the same information at once - in other words, no websites. Berners-Lee added that last piece of the puzzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BERNERS-LEE: All the difficult pieces had been done. All we needed to do was to make some way of actually getting that piece of information from any computer anywhere in the world, which was relatively simple.

GREENE: Later that year, Berners-Lee got the first-ever Web server up and running. His project allowed anyone to look at and create things online.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BERNERS-LEE: Once I started sending messages out, people in all kinds of places started to pick it up.

KING: And then things really took off when Berners-Lee convinced his bosses to let the Web be free. The rest is history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BERNERS-LEE: The basic technology is open. Anybody can build themselves a browser. Anybody can build an implementation of the latest ideas and try it out and make it better.

KING: Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, talking to NPR in 1999 and 2002. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.