In the late 1980’s, a CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) scientist named Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of hypertext, information that was “linked” to another set of information.
His idea was more of convenience than anything else; he just wanted the researchers at CERN to be able to communicate more easily via a single informational network, instead of many smaller networks that were not linked with one another in any sort of universal way.
Here’s the original announcement of the technology that changed the world from Tim Berners-Lee to the alt.hypertext newsgroup he chose to debut it:
"The WorldWideWeb (WWW) project aims to allow links to be made to any information anywhere. [...] The WWW project was started to allow high energy physicists to share data, news, and documentation. We are very interested in spreading the web to other areas, and having gateway serversGoogle Groups, for other data. Collaborators welcome! - source
This hypertext technology included hyperlinks, which enabled users to peruse information from any linked network merely by clicking on a link.
The Growth of the Web
One of the biggest reasons that the Web grew as fast as it did was the freely distributed technology behind it. Tim Berners-Lee managed to persuade CERN to provide the web technology and program code absolutely for free so that anyone could use it, improve it, tweak it, innovate it – you name it.
Obviously, this concept took off in a big way. From CERN’s hallowed research halls, the idea of hyper-linked information went first to other institutions in Europe, then to Stanford University, then Web servers began popping up all over the place. According to the BBC’s write up of Web history at Fifteen Years of the Web, the growth of the Web in 1993 annual growth was at an utterly staggering 341,634% as compared to the previous year.
It’s interesting to speculate on how things would be different had Berners-Lee and CERN decided NOT to be so magnanimous! The idea of information – all kinds of information – being instantly accessible from anywhere on Earth was an idea too captivating not to experience the intensely viral growth that the Web has experienced since its inception; and there seems to be no stopping it anytime soon.