Hurrah Berners-Lee! Web celebrates 20th anniversary

Analyst: A single paper written 20 years ago today became a great 20th-century idea

Twenty years ago, computers were either the size of a basketball court or they were novelties that we played with. Twenty years ago, we got our news at 6 p.m. on television or in the morning newspaper. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to buy a sweater, you drove from store to store until you spent as much on gas as you did on the sweater.

And then twenty years ago Friday, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper that laid out his thoughts for the World Wide Web. That one paper would be the seed that changed the way we communicate, shop, gather friends, date and do business. That one paper arguably held one of the most important ideas of the 20th century.

"Twenty years ago, Tim had a grand vision that became the World Wide Web. The world has never been the same," said Gene Phifer, an analyst for Gartner, Inc., in a blog post. "To sum it up, the Web has completely democratized access to information, products, services, applications, and other human beings. Prior to the Web, we had to travel to libraries to look up information. Prior to the Web, we had to go to bookstores to buy books. Prior to the Web, we had to use travel agents to set up a trip. And prior to the Web, the best place to meet friends was at church or a bar."

The world has changed dramatically because of the creation of the Web.

To commemorate the anniversary CERN, which runs the world's largest particle physics center, Friday celebrated the anniversary at its Geneva headquarters. Berners-Lee, who wrote the paper while working at CERN, headed the guest list as the keynote speaker.

Dan Olds, principle analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, said that not all experts agree on the birth date of the Web. While Olds acknowledges that the Berners-Lee paper was a critical step in the birth of the Web, but he considers that it was born on the day the first browser was released.

"I think the real Web birthday should be marked by when the first browser went into beta form," noted Olds. "Before it was available, we had electronic communications through email and dial-up services like CompuServe, but very few people used them because it was cumbersome, slow, and difficult to understand. But once we had browsers using the existing Internet plumbing, it changed everything. Suddenly it was much quicker and easier to access a whole range of sites all over the world. Regular people and businesses now had the ability to make connections with a huge range of information sources, and it was off to the races ever since then."

But even Olds conceded that Berners-Lee's paper was the seed that brought along all the rest.

"Without the paper, we may still be living in a world where the Internet is more like a collection of islands rather than a completely interconnected whole," he added. "The paper's impact on our productivity is enormous. It's changed the way we pay our bills, do research, get news, and sell our products and services. The Berners-Lee proposition was one of the great ideas of the 20th century and it launched a revolution that has changed our society in a fundamental way. Not bad for a single paper."

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?