Watching the web grow up with Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee created the web in 1991. Now people are talking about Web 2.0 — but he is more excited by other thingsIn 1994, when Tim Berners-Lee left CERN, the particle physics laboratory near Geneva where he created the world wide web, to move to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), his children were toddlers — just like the fledgling information-sharing system he had released onto the internet three years earlier. Since then the web has grown up fast, expanding from around 10,000 websites in the world at the end of 1994 to over 100m today. After this rapid growth spurt the web is now, like Sir Tim’s children, in its teenage years. The painfully self-conscious “Web 2.0” movement — a label which encompasses a range of technologies such as blogs, wikis and podcasts — represents the web’s adolescence. It has all the hallmarks of youthful rebellion against the conventional social order, and is making many traditional media companies tremble.Sir Tim ought to be thrilled. After all, his original vision was for the web to be a two-way medium, in which writing information was just as simple as reading it — but as the web took off in the late 1990s, publishing tools failed to keep up with web browsers in ease of use, and it is only with the rise of blogs and wikis that the balance has been redressed. Yet Sir Tim is less excited by all this than you might expect. He regards Web 2.0 as just a fancy name for some useful, if still rather basic, web-publishing tools, and was not at all surprised by the emergence of “user-generated content” — since that was what he had intended all along. “The web was designed so every user could be a contributor,” he says. “That sort of participation was the whole idea and was there from the start.”

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