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Quotes From The Beginnings of the World Wide Web

History in the making - straight from people who were there!


The history of the World Wide Web is a fascinating one, especially when you take a look back and see how far we've come in such a short time. Many incredibly smart people were instrumental in getting this amazing invention off the ground, and it's them that this article is about: direct quotes from the people who helped make the Web what it is today.

Vint Cerf, considered the "Father of the Internet"

"We were just rank amateurs, and we were expecting that some authority would finally come along and say, 'Here's how we are going to do it.' And nobody ever came along."

“The idea of leaving files for each other was pretty common in the time-sharing world. A guy named Ray Tomlinson, at Bolt, Beranek & Newman, figured out a way to cause a file to be transferred from one machine through the Net to another machine and left in a particular location for someone to pick up. He said, I need some symbol that separates the name of the recipient from the machine that the guy’s files are on. And so he looked around for what symbols on the keyboard were not already in use, and found the “@” sign. It was a tremendous invention.”

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web

"....it would be so much easier if everybody asking me questions all the time could just read my database, and it would be so much nicer if I could find out what these guys are doing by jumping into a similar database of information for them."

"The (the first Web conference held in 1994) conference was the way to tell everyone that no one should control it, and that a consortium could help parties agree an how to work together while also actually withstanding any effort by any institution or company to 'control' things."

(on forming the World Wide Web Consortium) "The purpose of the new consortium was to lead the Web to its full potential,' primarily by developing common protocols to enhance the interoperability and evolution of the Web."

"The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation."

Marc Andreeson, creator of one of the first Web browsers

"Mosaic was a side project that one of my colleagues and I started in our spare time, for several reasons: One, we didn’t think the real project we were working on at the time was going to go anywhere. And, two, all this interesting stuff was happening on the Internet. And so we basically said to ourselves, you know, if a lot of people are going to connect to the Internet, if only because of e-mail, and if all the P.C.’s are going to be going graphical, then you’ve got this whole new world where you’re going to have a lot of graphical P.C.’s on the Internet. Somebody should build a program that lets you access any of these Internet services from a single graphical program."

(on pricing the browser) "That was the way to get the company jump-started, because that just gives you essentially a broad platform to build off of. It's basically a Microsoft lesson, right? If you get ubiquity, you have a lot of options, a lot of ways to benefit from that. You can get paid by the product you are ubiquitous on, but you can also get paid on products that benefit as a result. One of the fundamental lessons is that market share now equals revenue later, and if you don't have market share now, you are not going to have revenue later. Another fundamental lesson is that whoever gets the volume does win in the end. Just plain wins."

Larry Roberts, principal architect of ARPANET

"Although they knew in the back of their mind that it was a good idea and were supportive on a philosophical front, from a practical point of view, they-Minsky and McCarthy [two prominent PIs], and everybody with their own machine-wanted [to continue having] their own machine. It was only a couple of years after they had gotten on [the ARPANET] that they started raving about how they could now share research, and jointly publish papers, and do other things that they could never do before."

Paul Baran, networking and packet switching pioneer

"Both the US and USSR were building hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missile systems. If the strategic weapons command and control systems could be more survivable, then the country's retaliatory capability could better allow it to withstand an attack and still function; a more stable position. But this was not a wholly feasible concept, because long-distance communication networks at that time were extremely vulnerable and not able to survive attack. That was the issue. Here a most dangerous situation was created by the lack of a survivable communication system." "I get credit for a lot of things I didn’t do. I just did a little piece on packet switching and I get blamed for the whole goddamned Internet, you know? Technology reaches a certain ripeness and the pieces are available and the need is there and the economics look good—it’s going to get invented by somebody."

Bob Metcalfe, creator of the Ethernet technology

(while giving a demonstration of his new technology)"I looked up in pain and I caught them smiling, delighted that packet-switching was flaky," said Metcalfe. "This I will never forget. It confirmed for them that circuit-switching technology was here to stay, and this packet-switching stuff was an unreliable toy that would never have much impact in the commercial world. It was clear to me they were tangled in the past."

(speaking more on the demo experience) "Imagine a bearded grad student being handed a dozen AT&T executives, all in pin-striped suits and quite a bit older and cooler. And I’m giving them a tour. And when I say a tour, they’re standing behind me while I’m typing on one of these terminals. I’m traveling around the Arpanet showing them: Ooh, look. You can do this. And I’m in U.C.L.A. in Los Angeles now. And now I’m in San Francisco. And now I’m in Chicago. And now I’m in Cambridge, Massachusetts—isn’t this cool? And as I’m giving my demo, the damned thing crashed.

And I turned around to look at these 10, 12 AT&T suits, and they were all laughing. And it was in that moment that AT&T became my bête noire, because I realized in that moment that these sons of bitches were rooting against me."

Doug Engelbart, inventor of the mouse

"By 'augmenting human intellect' we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by "complex situations" we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers—whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human "feel for a situation" usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids." - Engelbart, Augmenting Human Intellect: Introduction

Robert Kahn, TCP/IP pioneer

“Let me put it into perspective. So here we are when there are very few time-sharing systems anywhere in the world. AT&T probably said, Look, maybe we would have 50 or a hundred organizations, maybe a few hundred organizations, that could possibly partake of this in any reasonable time frame. Remember, the personal computer hadn’t been invented yet. So, you had to have these big expensive mainframes in order to do anything. They said, There’s no business there, and why should we waste our time until we can see that there’s a business opportunity? That’s why a place like arpa is so important.”

Lawrence Landweber, founder of CSNet, which connected colleges to ARPANET

“What do people use networks for? They use e-mail. They send files around. But until ’93 there’s no killer application that would draw in real people. I mean, people who are not academics or not in the technical industries. The World Wide Web turns the Internet into a repository, the largest repository of information and knowledge that’s ever existed. Suddenly, people who want to check on the weather or keep track of the stock market—suddenly, there’s a wealth of stuff you can do.”

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