Tim Berners-Lee

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, KBE, (TimBL or TBL) (born June 8, 1955) is the inventor of the World Wide Web (along with Robert Cailliau) and head (president) of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees its continued development.


Early life and career

Berners-Lee was born in London, England, the son of Conway Berners-Lee and Mary Lee Woods. His parents, both mathematicians, were employed together on the team that built the Manchester Mark I, one of the earliest computers. Berners-Lee attended Emanuel School in Wandsworth. He is an alumnus of the Queen's College of Oxford University, where he built a computer with a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television. He was also at Oxford where he was caught hacking with a friend and was subsequently banned from using the university computer.

He worked at Plessey Telecommunications Limited in 1976 as a programmer, and in 1978 he worked at D.G. Nash Limited where he worked on typesetting software and an operating system.

Proposal and prototype

In 1980, while an independent contractor at CERN, Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers. With help from Robert Cailliau he built a prototype system named Enquire.

After leaving CERN to work at John Poole's Image Computer Systems Ltd, he returned in 1984 as a fellow. He used similar ideas that he used in Enquire to create the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first browser (called WorldWideWeb and developed on NeXTSTEP) and the first web server simply called httpd (which was short for hypertext transport protocol daemon).

The first website

The first website Berners-Lee built (and therefore the first web site) was at http://info.cern.ch/ (which has been archived (http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/News/9201.html)) and was first put online on August 6, 1991. It provided an explanation about what the World Wide Web was, how one could own a browser, how to set up a web server, and so on. It was also the world's first web directory, since Berners-Lee later maintained a list of other web sites apart from his own.

The journey toward web standards

In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It comprised various companies willing to create standards and recommendations to improve the quality of the Internet.

Many of the World Wide Web Consortium's achievements are able to be seen in many websites on the Internet. In 1996, in conjunction with H嫯n Wium Lie, the W3C announced a standard entitled Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It was not until 2000 and 2001 that popular browsers began to support this standard, which shows Berners-Lee's first goal to maintain the freedom of the Web.

To this day, Tim Berners-Lee maintains a low profile, not intent on gaining popular status.

In December 2004 he accepted a chair (professorship) in Computer Science at the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK. He will be working closely with the University on the Semantic Web — his new project.

No royalties

While the component ideas of the World Wide Web are simple, Berners-Lee's insight was to combine them in a way which is still exploring its full potential. Perhaps his greatest single contribution, though, was to make his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. In 1994 he founded World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 2003, the organization decided that their standards must be based on royalty-free technology (http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/), so they can be easily adopted by anyone.

Weaving the Web

In Berners-Lee's book Weaving the Web, several recurring themes are apparent:

  • It is just as important to be able to edit the web as browse it. (Wiki is a step in this direction, although Berners-Lee considers it merely a shadow of the WYSIWYG functionality of his first browser.)
  • Computers can be used for background tasks that enable humans to work better in groups.
  • Every aspect of the Internet should function as a web, rather than a hierarchy. Notable current exceptions are the Domain Name System and the domain naming rules managed by ICANN.
  • Computer scientists have a moral responsibility as well as a technical responsibility.

Other interests

In 2001 he became a patron of the East Dorset Heritage Trust having previously lived in Colehill in Wimborne, East Dorset, UK.

He currently lives in the Boston area with his wife and two children.


The University of Southampton was the first to recognise Berners-Lee's contribution to developing the World Wide Web with an honorary degree in 1996 and he is currently Chair of the university's Electronics and Computer Science department. He was the first holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT, and is also now a Senior Research Scientist there. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1997 he was made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire, became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001, and received the Japan Prize in 2002.

In 2002 he received the Principe de Asturias award in the category of Scientific and Technical Research. He shared the prize with Lawrence Roberts, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf.

On April 15, 2004 he was named as the first recipient of Finland's Millennium Technology Prize for inventing the World Wide Web. The cash prize, worth one million euros (about ?663,000 or USD$1.2 million), was awarded on June 15, in Helsinki, Finland by Tarja Halonen.

He was given the rank of Knight Commander (the second-highest rank in the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the New Year's Honours on July 16, 2004. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3899723.stm).

On January 27, 2005 he was named Greatest Briton of 2004 for his achievements as well as displaying the key British characteristics of "diffidence, determination, a sharp sense of humour and adaptability" as put by David Hempleman-Adams, a panel member. [2] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/28/nweb228.xml)

Time Magazine included Berners-Lee in its list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, published in 1999.


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