The World Wide Web was born in a modest (paper) document dated March 13, 1989, by Tim Berners-Lee. His boss found it "vague, but exciting."
Tim Berners-Lee in 1994
In 1989, PCs were still a novelty for many folks, and at that point, how many people outside of scientific circles had every heard of something called the Internet? Things were about to start changing, though.
On March 13 of that year, a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee (seen here in 1994) working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, made a proposal that rather drily addressed "the problems of loss of information about complex evolving systems" and proposed "a solution based on a distributed hypertext system."
What it gave birth to was the World Wide Web, and thus, eventually, Facebook, eBay, Google, iTunes, YouTube, Pets.com, blogs....
The abstract of "Information Management: A Proposal" doesn't immediately conjure up images of anything looking like the Web we know today. See the handwritten note at the top from Berners-Lee's boss, Mike Sendall, who found the proposal "vague, but exciting."
The Internet as we know it today--or even as we knew it in the mid-1990s--didn't come into being overnight. The first Web server was this Next Cube, which Berners-Lee got in September 1990, and it was in December of that year that the Web was established between just a couple of CERN computers, according to the research organization. Berners-Lee also used the Next computer to develop and run a multimedia browser and Web editor.
Correction: This caption originally misstated the year Berners-Lee got the Next Cube that became the first Web server. It was September 1990.
Browsing? Double-click? Oh, how much we still had to learn. This screenshot from the Next computer shows what was brewing in the early days of hypertext. The first section of the main document here also shows what could still be considered a good rule of thumb when browsing for information: "The WWW project does not take responsibility for the accuracy of information provided by others."
This document from April 1993, CERN says, officially put the World Wide into the public domain. The term "W3" didn't catch on, but within a few years, the Web certainly did. The document continues on the next slide...
Speaking with ZDNet UK earlier this week, at a House of Lords event focused on the Internet and privacy, Berners-Lee offered this historical reflection: "When people built the Internet, it was designed to be a cloud," he said. "When routing packets, the system only looks at the envelope--it's an important design principle. Now people find out what you write in your letters."