The diagram that launched the web

This post is inspired by the BBC Television programme ‘The Virtual Revolution’ (30 January 2010) and the Radio Times interview with Tim Berners-Lee (issue 30 January to 5 February 2010).

For of meridians and parallels,
Man hath weaved out a net, and this net thrown
Upon the Heavens, and now they are his own
John Donne (1572–1631)

More than three centuries later in March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee working at CERN sent his boss, Mike Sendall, a ‘memo’ which was in fact a proposal for an information management system. Berners-Lee was tentatively given the go ahead with the words ‘vague but exciting…’. This system evolved into what we now know as the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee sought no financial gain for offering his discovery to the world. The polymath, Stephen Fry, implores us to thank him daily for his ‘supreme act of generosity and selflessness and idealism’. Thanks Tim! Some, however, suggest the web isn’t all good and that it is perhaps the new ‘root of all evil’. Berners-Lee argues that ‘crime isn’t new’. He continues: ‘The web is a blank slate; you can’t design technology that is good. You can’t design paper that you can only write good things on. There are no good or evil tools. You can put an engine in an ambulance or a tank’. The intention was to allow everyone to connect to each other and share information. As Peter Bogaards of informationdesign.org reminds us, ‘it’s better to share information than own it’. Below is the diagram that launched the web.

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