The World Wide Web was almost called The Mesh. Or Mine of Information. Or The Information Mine.
That’s according to a Reddit AMA with Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee on Wednesday afternoon. Today is the 25th anniversary of the day Berners-Lee (who is only 58—for some reason I was expecting him to be like, 80) wrote a paper proposing an information management system that ended up becoming the framework for the World Wide Web. He released the code for this system for free on Christmas Day 1990.
The Internet and the Web are not the same thing (*tiny, barely audible “poof” sound as all the heads in the universe explode at once*). The Internet consists of rules (protocols) that allow computer networks to communicate with one another. The Web, meanwhile, is a service that uses that network to access files and pages that are hosted on other computers.
By 1995, 14% of U.S. adults were using the Internet. Five years later, that number more than tripled to 46% of U.S. adults. I was surprised to learn that by 2005, only 66% of American adults were using the Internet. Only 66%! Amazon had been around for 13 years by then and one in three people didn’t have access to it. And that was just one year after the founding of Facebook, which still managed to go viral.
Today, 87% of American adults are using the Internet, but adoption reaches near saturation levels among those living in higher income households, younger users, and those with college degrees (99%, 97%, and 99% respectively). And many people today admit to being more dependent on the Internet than their cellphone.
Berners-Lee explained in his AMA chat that he decided on the name World Wide Web (thereby creating the bane of public radio hosts who have to garble out “double-yoo, double-yoo, double-yoo”) because he could start global variable names with a ‘W’ and not have them clash with those of others. Plus, none of the others had a nice enough ring.
Some other highlights from the interview include a question about the one thing Berners-Lee never thought the Web would be used for, but has since become a dominant force. His one-word answer: “Kittens.” That said, he later admits to having posted pictures of his dog on the Web.
When asked about whether he views Edward Snowden as a hero or villain, Berners-Lee had this to say:
“Because he ✓ had no other alternative ✓ engaged as a journalist/with a journalist to be careful of how [and] what was released, and ✓ provided an important net overall benefit to the world, I think he should be protected, and we should have ways of protecting people like him. Because we can try to design perfect systems of government, and they will never be perfect, and when they fail, then the whistleblower may be all that saves society.”