Saturday, January 7, 2012

(empo-tymshft) One more Usenet post of note

I've talked ad nauseum about Usenet over the past few days, but I wanted to share just one more thing.

Back in 1991, Usenet included a plethora of active discussion groups - some silly, some scintillating. One of those groups - interestingly enough, in the alt. hierarchy - was a group called alt.hypertext. Now hypertext had been implemented in a variety of ways - for example, the only time that I have ever been employed as a professional programmer was when I used Hypertalk to create special Hypercard stacks. But some people were thinking about implementing a new way of sharing hypertext, which prompted one Tim Berners-Lee to post this message to the alt.hypertext Usenet group.

Perhaps this message represents the true end of Usenet.

Path: gmdzi!unido!mcsun!cernvax!info
From: timbl@info (Tim Berners-Lee)
Newsgroups: alt.hypertext
Subject: WorldWideWeb: Summary
Keywords: heterogeneous hypertext, web, source, protocol, index, information retrieval
Message-ID: <>
Date: 6 Aug 91 16:00:12 GMT
References: <>
Lines: 84

In article <> I promised to post a short summary of the
WorldWideWeb project. Mail me with any queries.

WorldWideWeb - Executive Summary

The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to
make an easy but powerful global information system.

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should
be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within
internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by
support groups.

Reader view

The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents
which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is
another ("virtual") document containing links to the documents found. A simple
protocol ("HTTP") is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword
search by a remote information server.

The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are
hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places
within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar
to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme.

To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or
she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other
search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire
world of data.

Information provider view

The WWW browsers can access many existing data systems via existing protocols
(FTP, NNTP) or via HTTP and a gateway. In this way, the critical mass of data
is quickly exceeded, and the increasing use of the system by readers and
information suppliers encourage each other.

Making a web is as simple as writing a few SGML files which point to your
existing data. Making it public involves running the FTP or HTTP daemon, and
making at least one link into your web from another. In fact, any file
available by anonymous FTP can be immediately linked into a web. The very small
start-up effort is designed to allow small contributions. At the other end of
the scale, large information providers may provide an HTTP server with full
text or keyword indexing.

The WWW model gets over the frustrating incompatibilities of data format
between suppliers and reader by allowing negotiation of format between a smart
browser and a smart server. This should provide a basis for extension into
multimedia, and allow those who share application standards to make full use of
them across the web.

This summary does not describe the many exciting possibilities opened up by the
WWW project, such as efficient document caching. the reduction of redundant
out-of-date copies, and the use of knowledge daemons. There is more
information in the online project documentation, including some background on
hypertext and many technical notes.

Try it

A prototype (very alpha test) simple line mode browser is currently available
in source form from node [currently] as


Also available is a hypertext editor for the NeXT using the NeXTStep graphical
user interface, and a skeleton server daemon.

Documentation is readable using www (Plain text of the instalation instructions
is included in the tar file!). Document

is as good a place to start as any. Note these coordinates may change with
later releases.


Tim Berners-Lee Tel: +41(22)767 3755
WorldWideWeb project Fax: +41(22)767 7155
C.E.R.N. email:
1211 Geneva 23
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