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Basic Space

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Happy 20th Birthday to the free, open web!


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

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

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