Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cern 'Open Sourced' the Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was recently interviewed by the BBC to mark today's 15th anniversary of the day that Cern put the web's code into the public domain.

Berners-Lee indicated that making the web free to use had a vital role in spreading its use worldwide. However, the decision by physics laboratory to release the web code into the public domain was not a straightforward one. The difficult part was explaining the true nature of what the web was going to be and that this was going to take off and it was a really big thing. Therefore, Cern couldn't hold on to it and "the best thing to do was to give it away."

In a fateful decision that significantly helped the web to grow, Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau managed to get Cern to provide a certification on April 30, 1993. Once the technology and program code was in the public domain anyone could use and improve it.

Cailliau notes:

"If we had put a price on it like the University of Minnesota had done with Gopher then it would not have expanded into what it is now. We would have had some sort of market share alongside services like AOL and Compuserve, but we would not have flattened the world."

As a side note, in A Short History of the Web, Mr. Cailliau recalls that during sessions in the CERN cafeteria, he and Berners-Lee discussed a catching name for the system. The only exception that he noted when Berners-Lee proposed 'World-Wide Web' was that it is difficult to pronounce in French. Sphere: Related Content

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