World Wide Web and Hypertext Overview and History
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History of Hypertext
The ideas behind hypertext actually go back far beyond the Web and even electronic computers. Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) is generally credited with introducing the idea in his 1945 description of a theoretical device called the Memex, which was intended to be used to store and retrieve documents. He described the concept of a trail that would link together related information to make it easier to organize and access the information in the device.
Bush's ideas were used as the basis of the work of several researchers who followed. One of these was Ted Nelson, who coined the term hypertext and in 1960, first described a system called Xanadu, which is considered one of the original hypertext software models.
The history of the World Wide Web itself goes back to 1989 at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva. (The acronym stands for Conseil Européene pour la Recherche Nucléaire, the French name of the organization.) Many of the projects undertaken at CERN were large, complex, and took many years to complete. They also involved many scientists who had to work with and share related documents.
A researcher at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee, proposed the idea of creating a web of electronically-linked documents. The rapidly-growing Internet was the obvious conduit for this project. He designed the first (very crude and simple) version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for TCP/IP in 1990. He was also responsible for developing or co-developing several of the other key concepts and components behind the Web, such as Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
The ability to link documents and files together had tremendous appeal, and it took little time before creative individuals found many different uses for this new technology. The early 1990s saw a flurry of development activity. Web server and client software was developed and refined, and the first graphical Web browser, Mosaic, was created by the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) in 1993. (The developer of this program, Marc Andreesen, eventually formed Netscape Communications.)
Once the Web started to form, it grew very quickly indeed. In fact, to call the growth of the Web anything but explosive would not do it justice. In early 1993, there were only 50 active HTTP Web servers. By late 1993, there were over 1,000. By late 1995, thousands of new Web sites were coming online every day, and HTTP requests and responses had overtaken all other TCP/IP application traffic. By the end of the decade there were millions of Web sites and over a billion documents available on the Web.
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