In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, 58, established a place for himself in the history books by creating the World Wide Web. That month, the Briton, who at the time worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), wrote a paper titled “Information Management — A Proposal.” His research led to the development of the first Web browser and, finally, the World Wide Web. Today, Berners-Lee is a professor at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Southhampton in England. He is also a Sir and doctor honoris causa at several universities, OpenUniversity of Catalonia, among them (since 2008).
In this skype interview by Spiegel Online, Tim Berners-Lee looks back on his creation — its strengths, the threats it poses and how Edward Snowden’s revelations have raised awareness about Internet integrity.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Looking back 25 years, what was one of the most important milestones in the Web’s development?
Berners-Lee: When I first developed the Web technology at CERN in Geneva, there was another system called Gopher. I didn’t think it was as good as the Web, but it started earlier and had more users. At a certain point the University of Minnesota, which had created the Gopher system, said that in the future they would possibly charge a royalty for commercial uses. Gopher traffic immediately dropped off and people moved to the World Wide Web. CERN management then made a commitment — I can still remember the date, April 30, 1993 — that royalties would never be charged for using the Web. That was a very important step because it established a trend.