Like many people who achieve something spectacular, Tim
Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, has seen a myth grow up
He's not a physicist. He's just a software engineer who wanted
to make his work easier.
But he's often portrayed as a physicist because he developed
the Web while working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory,
known as CERN, and the physics community was the first to embrace
But now, more than a decade after he came up with the idea, the
Web is used by millions of people with computers connected to the
Internet, the global computer network. Entertainment and
information - not science - is the aim of many users who "browse" a
colorful collection of Web "sites" every day.
Companies of all sizes display products and public information
on their sites. And thousands of individuals have their own Web
sites, where they show favorite photos, poetry, opinions on
entertainment, news or sports, or demonstrate some type of
Berners-Lee believes the technology that is now a novelty to
many people will be taken for granted in a few years. And he is
working toward that end.
British-born and educated, the soft-spoken programmer left CERN
a year ago to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which
helped form a consortium of more than 90 companies and institutions
to fund development of Web technical standards.
The consortium's members also deal with many issues that
reflect the public's anxiety about on-line communication - like
security, intellectual property protection, free speech, anonymity
The group is expected to come up with innovations to help rate
Web content the way that movies are rated, and to allow users to do
more things on a Web page besides reading it and jumping to another.
Many members of the World Wide Web Consortium, especially
companies like software and computer makers, see the coming changes
as a way to make money quickly.
"We have short-term pressures from companies that need to get
products out to market very rapidly, in a ridiculously short time
scale when compared historically," Berners-Lee said. "And at the
same time . . . we have to be aware that we're doing something that
has got a lot of long-term implications."
One sign of the Web's growing importance is that more than
3,000 people are expected at the fourth conference for standards
development next month in Cambridge, Mass. That's compared to 300
at the first such gathering, held early last year.
The Web represents a major step toward getting information
anytime and anywhere, the oft-discussed promise of computers and
communications. But for all of its sophisticated technology, the
Web is still in its youth, "the medieval part of this dream," said
Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer
Science, where Berners-Lee now works. …