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Tim Berners-Lee at Tufts

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, lectured about the creation of the web and his vision for the future of it.


  1. The lecture took place in Robinson 253, an auditorium typically used for physics classes. Given that the concept for the web was derived from a project to organize documents for physics research at CERN, it was one of the more appropriate places on campus to have a lecture with Berners-Lee.
  2. Noah Mendelsohn, who co-chairs the top level web architecture steering group with Berners-Lee at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), took a few minutes to introduce the lecture. He then handed things over to Berners-Lee, who was energetic, starting out by reminding everybody to tell him to slow down if he spoke too fast.
  3. Creating the Web

  4. At CERN, he had to constantly deal with file format and protocol incompatibilities when sharing documents. He wanted a way to unify all of that architecture. People thought it was neat, but didn't necessarily see how it could be used for things other than notes and technical documents.
  5. Berners-Lee saw it as an opportunity to build something greater:
  6. The core aspect that made it universal was taking the short document names that were only locally unique on a person's computer and replacing them with names that were globally unique. These global names, now called URIs, are the core feature that makes the web what it is. They allow anybody on the web to reference work from anybody else on the web in a consistent manner.

    Berners-Lee noted that this concept doesn't just apply to the web. One could "webize" JavaScript with globally-unique names for functions, for example, and have global cross-referencing of code.
  7. Berners-Lee discussed the initial paper he wrote about the concept:
  8. But despite the excitement, it was still a long, difficult process to get the web going:
  9. But once it gained excitement, it started expanding and moving quickly.
  10. The Web's Future

  11. One of his major concerns is the current shift to distributing information through native mobile apps. They lack the global URI naming, linking, and formatting that made the web so powerful as a universal resource. Information remains siloed in particular apps. And there's no way to cite what others write.
  12. To deal with this, the W3C is working to expand the capabilities of web apps so they're competitive with the proprietary application systems from Apple and Google.
  13. But, there are bigger worldwide social implications to the push to mobile than one might initially expect. Mobile seems like old news in the developed world since smartphones are so common. But that isn't the case elsewhere.