Sir Tim Berners-Lee is now widely considered to be the man who invented the Internet – at least the version we use today. He was the person formally credited with making the first proposal for the networked computers back in March 1989 (according to Time magazine). He made the key innovative strategy of combining HTML with existing networking infrastructure.
In 1989 he was working with CERN when he saw an opportunity to combine hypertext with the web technologies. He connected transmission control protocols (TCP), existing domain name system (DNS) ideas and HTML as a way for defining applications (i.e. web browsers) to access information on other servers on machines using a generic language (i.e. HTML). This was formerly written up in a proposal to his manager Mike Sendall at CERN.
Lead up to the invention of the Internet
Earlier versions of the Inter-connected network of computers did not include HTML, such as those networked systems developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) back in the 1960s. These were research systems used by the American military for sharing Defense research data amongst different facilities in the 1960’s. Importantly, however, they did not use HTML at that time. In fact it was just e-mail and FTP sites.
This original concept was first developed at DARPA back in 1964 and was called ARPANET (advanced research projects agency network). However, even these types of systems were trying to work out how to invent something that could adapt packet switching theory (which was initially developed back in 1961 by Leonard Kleinrock of MIT).
So in one sense, you could say the man who invented the Internet ‘conceptually’ was Kleinrock!
One of the major steppingstones which led to Tim Berners-Lee making his proposal was the fact that communication protocols started change and improve. In 1974, TCP/IP was developed by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn. It is also worth mentioning the development of Ethernet by Robert Metcalfe which is now the basic communication standard used between computers on the web.
So, in another sense, you could actually say the men who invented the Internet ‘infrastructure’ was Cerf, Kahn & Metcalfe.
Al gore invented Internet?
It is often quoted and misquoted that Al Gore invented the Internet. While he wasn’t involved in the invention of the Internet technologies or concepts behind it, he was fundamentally involved in the economic and legislative support which the web received, especially during the 90s.
The confusion stems back to an interview he did for CNN on the Late Edition show back in 1999. One of the great quotes on innovation was when he stated that:
“During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in
moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be
important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection.
I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
In reality he had a major economic and legislative involvement in fostering the web, but had no involvement in the invention of Internet technologies. As a result of the work done, he has regularly received awards for his involvement in supporting the financing and legal backing that helped grow the web.
So in essence, it was the work of several different people that actually resulted in the invention of Internet technologies. Tim Berners-Lee definitely has a major responsibility for establishing that initial proposal which forms the basic structure of the World Wide Web that we see today so is usually referred to as the man who invented the Internet.
Through his work, incorporating HTML, he provided a specification which could standardize communications between computers. Up until that point there was a host of different communication methods and specifications being used which meant that one single browser/application could not be used for reading messages from several machines.
That said, from the technical work and legislative work that went on in parallel to this the Net may not have ever received the amount of take-up and support that it actually did.
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