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Happy 20th Birthday to the free, open web!

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Today Cern is celebrating 20 years of the free, open web.

We all know the World Wide Web was created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, during his time at Cern. But did you know that it was another four years until the particle physics lab officially declared the web a free for all?

On 30 April 1993, Cern published a letter declaring that they were putting the technology that underpins the web into the public domain. Without this document, the internet would be a very different place today.

(As a side note, the Word Wide Web is referred to in the the letter as W3 — imagine how many Ws we’d have saved typing if that had caught on!)

Here’s the crucial paragraph:

The following CERN software is hereby put into the public domain:

- W3 basic (“line-mode”) client
- W3 basic server
- W3 library of common code

CERN’s intention in this is to further compatibility, common practices, and standards in networking and computer supported collaboration.

They made sure to add: “This does not constitute a precedent to be applied to any other CERN copyright software.”


In other Cern news, did you also know that in 1983 the then Director General told Margaret Thatcher about the W boson discovery, before announcing it to the world? The things you can learn from the Cern document server

Images: Cern

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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