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Cern celebrates 20 years of the web

The research centre marks how far Sir Tim Berners-Lee's 'vague, but exciting' proposal for a World Wide Web has come
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The European Centre for Nuclear Research, or Cern, on Friday celebrated 20 years since the conception of the World Wide Web.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who was working at Cern at the time, first proposed the idea of the World Wide Web in March 1989, when he submitted a paper entitled Information Management: A Proposal to his supervisor Mike Sendell.

Sendell wrote on the cover "Vague, but exciting", giving the go-ahead for the project to continue.

Speaking at an event at Cern on Friday, Berners-Lee acknowledged the role of the centre on the development of the World Wide Web.

"It's a pleasure to be back at Cern," said Berners-Lee in a statement. "Cern has come a long way since 1989, and so has the web, but its roots will always be here."

Berners-Lee's idea was to develop a system that would enable scientists around the globe to share information online, using hypertext. In 1990, systems engineer Robert Cailliau joined Berners-Lee in writing a proposal for funding for the project.

Berners-Lee developed a browser/editor called WorldWideWeb on a Next computer system. According to Cern, the address of the first website and web server was Info.cern.ch, while the first web page was located at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html. A copy of the page is located on the Cern website.

Cern's director general Rolf Heuer said innovation at Cern is still going strong.

"When Cern scientists find a technological hurdle in the way of their ambitions, they have a tendency to solve it," Heuer said. "I'm pleased to say that the spirit of innovation that allowed Tim Berners-Lee to invent the web at Cern, and allowed Cern to nurture it, is alive and well today."

One of Cern's current projects is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator designed to smash beams of protons into each other, to test fundamental physics theories, and help understand the nature of matter. The LHC had to be taken offline last September after an electrical fault caused a leak of liquid helium, and is not expected to be restarted until September.

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