Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: The Web is humanity connected. It’s the most powerful information construct humanity’s ever built. It allows us to connect and abolish the tyranny of scale and distance.
Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds DAME WENDY HALL: It’s the technology that enables us to access files from any computer that’s connected to the Internet around the world. And when it started, that’s how we thought of it– that it was a hypermedia system that enabled you to easily click on a link, which would download a file from whichever computer that file was on and read it on your screen. Quite a breakthrough. We realise now it’s a lot more than that.
Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: The Web originated really out of a deep sense of frustration. Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN. He was actually working on a really obvious problem, which was– how could you get all the online documentation that existed in all sorts of different computer systems to link to one another?
Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds DAME WENDY HALL: Everyone was searching for the ubiquitous hypermedia system, and it was Tim who brought those ideas together to create the protocols of HTML an HTTP that are the foundation of the Web.
Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: And he imagined a system which would connect all of that documentation together, and he had a background in a technology called “hypertext.” And so he put together a memo, send it to his boss, and didn’t get any response. A few months went by. Tim went back to his boss and said, “Did you get the memo? I submitted it again anyway.” He just crossed out the date. And that second version was discovered recently. And in the top right-hand corner, there’s a handwritten note that says, “Vague but exciting.” And of course, the Web didn’t exist at that point, but Mike Sendall could see the promise.
Skip to 2 minutes and 8 seconds And when Tim gave us the first system, the first Web server that was put up in CERN, 1990, and as it then took on, went viral, more and more people putting their Web servers online, you could begin to see the power of the idea.
Skip to 2 minutes and 23 seconds DAME WENDY HALL: He could see what others– including myself– couldn’t about how ubiquity was everything. And so getting everybody in the world to use the system was what was going to make it powerful, and it was partly his drive and his perseverance that meant the Web was adopted when other systems that were out there weren’t.
Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: The Web’s everywhere in our lives. It’s in how we buy, shop, travel, educate ourselves, take our health– everything managed through the agency of the Web. So it’s everywhere. It’s pervasive. And like all things that are pervasive or ubiquitous, it kind of gets created, taken for granted. So one of the fundamental propositions of Web science is to stand back and say, “This extraordinary concept exists. We need to understand it. We cannot take it for granted.”
Skip to 3 minutes and 18 seconds DAME WENDY HALL: Well, of course, it’s changed everything about our world and it’s still doing so. And the reason that we came up with the idea of the new discipline of Web science was because it isn’t just about the technology. It’s about what people do with the technology. And what emerged, over the last 10 years or so, is that the Web is changing us, it’s changing society, but we change the Web because it’s our Web. It grows. It evolves because we put content onto it.
Skip to 3 minutes and 49 seconds SIR NIGEL SHADBOLT: If you look at the way the Web has impacted our lives, you can’t find an area where it hasn’t had an impact.
Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds DAME WENDY HALL: It has become, in a very short space of time, a fundamental in our lives. And the scary thing about that is– imagine if it wasn’t there tomorrow.
What would happen if the Web was turned off tonight?
Welcome to the course. In just 25 years the World Wide Web has grown to become the largest human information system in history, integrated into the everyday lives of billions of people across the planet, shaping how we do business, conduct our social lives and organise politically.
In this short video, you meet leading Web scientists Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt who discuss the inception of the Web, and its impact on modern society.
As Wendy concludes, the Web
‘has become, in a very short space of time, a fundamental in our lives. And the scary thing about that is, imagine if it wasn’t there tomorrow.’ (3min:55sec)
Join the conversation by sharing your response to the following questions. You can do this by posting in the comments area. Rather than on this step, we encourage you to introduce yourself in the following step 1.2 where we’d also like you to tell us where you are in the world on our user location map, and what it is about the Web that fascinates you.
What do you think would happen if the Web was turned off tonight? How has the Web become a fundamental part of your daily life?
Posting your first comments
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© University of Southampton 2015, except music courtesy of Footage Firm, Inc.