W3C celebrates tenth birthday

The World Wide Web Consortium is planning a celebration to mark 10 years of setting specs for the Web - prompting the question, when did the Internet begin?

The body that sets standards for the Web -- the World Wide Web Consortium -- plans to celebrate its tenth birthday in Boston, Massachusetts, on the first of December.

The W3C was founded in 1994 to develop technical specifications for the Web's infrastructure, and to date has created more than 80 specifications, covering everything from accessibility to XML. W3C founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee is due to speak at the event, as are other notable names from the world of the Internet, including 3Com founder and Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe, and Tom O'Reilly, founder of the eponymous media company.

Although the date is a little late for the founding of the W3C, which was on 1 October, 1994, it falls close to the organisation's first meeting on 14 December of that year. By then, there were 10,000 Web servers worldwide -- of which 2,000 were run by commercial organisations -- and some 10 million users.

"Between the summers of 1991 and 1994, the load on the first Web server (info.cern.ch) rose steadily by a factor of 10 every year," wrote Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the CERN Web site. "In 1992 academia, and in 1993 industry, was taking notice. I was under pressure to define the future evolution. After much discussion I decided to form the World Wide Web Consortium in September 1994, with a base at MIT in the USA, INRIA in France, and now also at Keio University in Japan."

Sir Tim formed the consortium as a neutral open forum "where companies and organisations to whom the future of the Web is important come to discuss and to agree on new common computer protocols."

Other notable birthdays
December first is likely to join the list of notable dates marking the development of the Internet -- it will probably be one of the more easily definable dates. Shortly after the W3C's celebration, the Internet will turn 22 -- depending on who you ask.

A posting almost two years ago by one Internet pioneer on an influential mailing list says the most logical origin of the Internet is 1 January, 1983, "when the ARPANET officially switched from the NCP protocol to TCP/IP". Bob Braden, who posted the claim on a mailing list of the Internet Engineering Task Force, was a member of the research group that worked on the TCP protocol. There may still be a few remaining T-shirts that read, "I Survived the TCP/IP Transition," said Braden in his posting, which may be disputed by other parties.

There are others who put the age of the Internet a little earlier. On 24 September, 1999, a group of Internet luminaries gathered at a private estate in the very exclusive San Francisco suburb of Atherton, California, for a very special bash. The object of their celebration: the Internet. The occasion: its 30th birthday.

And then there was the smiley. In September 1992, a Microsoft researcher claimed to have dug up a record of the first smiley -- that combination of characters commonly used to denote a joke. The rediscovery, by Mike Jones who works in the Systems and Networking Research Group at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, appeared to reveal that the emoticon first showed its face on 19 September, 1982.

However, others date it earlier. A report for Intel by Renaissance Computing was said to have used the smiley in 1974, while others have traced it back to teletype transmissions in the early 1960s.