The Creator of the World Wide Web Almost Called It Something Else
You might not be familiar with the name Tim Berners-Lee, but he forever changed our world. It was exactly 25 years ago today, on March 12, 1989, that he invented the World Wide Web — you know, the system that lets us access Internet. To celebrate, he wrote a blog post on Google and hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Of course, his answers didn't disappoint. Read on for his thoughts on alternative names for the WWW, Internet kittens, and phenomena like Bitcoin.
What was one of the things you never thought the internet would be used for, but has actually become one of the main reasons people use the internet?
Tim Berners-Lee (WWW inventor): Kittens.
Did you ever post a picture of your cat?
TBL: Dog: Yes, Cat: No.
Edward Snowden — Hero or Villain?
TBL: Because he had no other alternative, engaged as a journalist/with a journalist to be careful of how what was released, and provided an important net overall benefit to the world, I think he should be protected, and we should have ways of protecting people like him. Because we can try to design perfect systems of government, and they will never be perfect, and when they fail, then the whistleblower may be all that saves society.
Do you ever look at the stuff on the web now and feel like Robert Oppenheimer (the atomic bomb creator)?
TBL: No, not really. The web is a — primarily neutral — tool for humanity. When you look at humanity you see the good and the bad, the wonderful and the awful. A powerful tool can be used for good or ill. Things which are really bad are illegal on the web as they are off it. On balance, communication is good think I think: much of the badness comes from misunderstanding.
Who was your role model as a kid?
TBL: My parents, who met building the first computer commercialized in the UK — the Ferranti Mk 1, and some of the people they worked with, my math teacher Frank Grundy, chem teacher Daffy . . .
Tim, What other names did you consider other than the world wide web?
TBL: Mine of Information, The Information Mine, The Mesh. None had quite the right ring. I liked WWW partly because I could start global variable names with a W and not have them clash with other peoples' (in a C world) . . . in fact I used HT for them.
What impact, if any, do you think digital currencies might have on how value is sent over the Internet?
TBL: I think that it is important to have lots of different ways getting money to creative people on the net. So if we can have micropayment user interfaces which make it easy for me to pay people for stuff they write, play, perform, etc, in small amounts, then I hope that could be a way allowing people to actually make a serious business out of it. Flattr I found an interesting move in that direction.
What are your thoughts on the increased surveillance on internet based mediums like GCHQ's monitoring of all the Yahoo video chats. Do you personally think it should be controlled, non existent or fine the way it is now?
TBL: I think that some monitoring of the net by government agencies is going to be needed to fight crime. We need to invent a new system of checks and balances with unprecedented power to be able to investigate and hold the agencies which do it accountable to the public.
Is it true that error 404 came to be as a result of there not being a room 404 in the office you were working at?
TBL: No. Nonsense.