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On the 15th birthday of the WWW, a look back

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In November of 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at Europe's CERN Particle Physics Laboratory, invented the very first web server and web browser. The server, entitled simply httpd, and the browser, called WorldWideWeb, ran on Tim's NeXT cube and worked exclusively on the NeXTstep operating system. Archive copies of Tim's first web page and some early web sites show a web that is simultaneously very different from the modern one and yet still very familiar.

In an article published to coincide with the Web's 15th anniversary, James Boyle, law professor and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, points out that the web developed in a unique fashion, due to conditions unlikely to be repeated today. The idea of hypertext was not invented by Berners-Lee. Vannevar Bush proposed a hypertext-like linking system as early as 1945. A working model was built by the team led by Douglas Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse, in 1968. Computer activist Ted Nelson proposed a much more advanced form of the World Wide Web, called Xanadu, in his seminal work Computer Lib. Even Apple created a non-networked version of hypertext called Hypercard in 1987.

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