Happy 'Internaut Day': World Wide Web marks 25th birthday

The public internet was launched on August 23rd 1991 by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee

The medium through which this message reached you - the internet - is officially 25 years old.

Today, the World Wide Web is an indispensable tool of modern life - most of us could not imagine life without it, but it was not until August 23rd, 1991 that its inventor, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee opened its doors to the general public.

Berners-Lee had dreamed up the idea of a World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989, while working at CERN. That web was originally developed to satisfy the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities across the globe.

That changed in 1991 when access to the web was opened to all. Berners-Lee is now dedicated to enhancing and protecting the Web’s future.

Cold War beginnings

But the protocols and technologies needed to make the internet work were developed much earlier, in the 1960s. Cold War fears of a Soviet strike on the telephone network had led NASA's Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop ARPANET, a “galactic network” of computers that could talk to each other.

By the end of the 1970s, a computer scientist named Vinton Cerf had begun to solve this problem by developing a way for all of the computers on all of the world’s mini-networks to communicate with one another. He called his invention “Transmission Control Protocol,” or TCP. (Later, he added an additional protocol, known as “Internet Protocol.” The acronym we use to refer to these today is TCP/IP.) 

Cerf’s protocol transformed the Internet into a worldwide network. Throughout the 1980s, researchers and scientists used it to send files and data from one computer to another, before Berners-Lee introduced the concept of an internet that was not simply a way to send files from one place to another but an information “web” accessible by everyone.

Since then, the Internet that has taken on a life of its own, becoming the ubiquitous information portal we know today.

By definition, 'Internaut' is a portmanteau of the words 'Internet' and 'astronaut' and refers to a designer, operator, or technically capable user of the Internet. Nobody knows who first used the word Internet - it just became a shortcut around this time for "internetworking". The earliest written use of the word appears to be by Vint Cerf in 1974. `