Posts Tagged ‘tim berners lee’
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance
(Above) The first public website – reconstructed at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html
April 30th marked the 20th anniversary of the technology behind the World Wide Web becoming available royalty-free to the public. On April 30, 1993 the Swiss group CERN made the software used to operate the World Wide Web available to the entire world at no charge. CERN or European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire ) was originally established to operate the the world’s largest particle laboratory.
When the World Wide Web was first invented by British physicist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, there was a royalty charge to use the software necessary to access it. Between 1989 and 1993 the physicists at CERN expanded and improved on W3 software to facilitate rapid document exchange between their physicists. Then in 1993 they made the momentous decision to “democratize the Word Wide Web” by making the software available royalty-free on an Open Source basis. This gift of W3 software to the “commons” was a marked departure from a growing drive by corporations to privatize other publicly held aspects by converting them into profit-generating commodities.
I love the first sentence about aiming “to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” Talk about understatement.
In their coverage of the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web, World Business Report interviewed Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab. Under his leadership, the Media Lab seems to be carrying on in the CERN tradition of democratizing the Internet. Ito insists one of the main purposes of Media Lab is to foster technology that ensures everyone has access to the Internet and (surprisingly) that everyone learns to write computer code. He makes specific reference to a free computer coding program for children called “Scratch.” After checking out the website (http://scratch.mit.edu/), I’ve decided this is the appropriate level for me to start it – if I do decide to take up computer coding, that is.
Ito also talks about a concept referred to as “frugal engineering,” which is the specific application of design concepts to third world societies. Reportedly a “frugal engineering” approach led to the development of India’s $2,000 Tato Car released in 2009 (with a carbon fiber frame that’s far cheaper to manufacture than steel). It sounds to me this initiative is roughly comparable to what we called “appropriate technology” in the 1970s.
Finally he reminds us about other important Open Source Internet technologies that have developed in recent years including Linux (the free Open Source alternative to Microsoft Windows) and Voice Over Internet Protocol (first introduced as Skype). I wonder how significant it is that neither was developed in the US – Linux was developed in Finland and Skype in Estonia. If they had been, I seriously doubt either would have been freely publicly available as Open Source. I suspect American software developers (or more accurately, their corporate employers) would have succumbed to the temptation to exploit them for the profit-making potential.
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance
By Andrew Lih
(Aurun Press Ltd 2009)
(I have divided this review into two parts. Part I describes Open Source innovations that were integral to the creation of the world’s most famous and popular encyclopedia. Part II describes the Wikipedia project itself.)
Lih’s Wilkipedia Revolution stands as a testament to the unsung heroes of the Open Source movement. From the outset, there has been a split between entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who have viewed the Internet as an opportunity to become enormously rich, and true visionaries like Jimmy Wales, who see it as a medium of social change with the potential to improve the lives of billions of people. I have always regarded Open Source activities like Wikipedia and Wikileaks as the Occupy Wall Street of the Internet. Like OWS, Open Source reclaims electronic communications as a “commons” – a public space to be jointly owned and used by all of us for the common good.
In Lih’s view, Wikipedia would never have been possible without the freely shared knowledge and software of the Open Source movement. He makes this clear by skillfully interweaving the personal biography of Jimmy Wales with the history of the Internet, the World Wide Web and the O S movement itself.
Hacker Ethics and the Open Source Movement
Wales, who has a master’s degree in finance, had a first career selling derivatives for Chicago Options Associates. In 1996, he used his programming and hacking skills to start a dot com in his spare time with Tim Shell, who he met through an on-line philosophy mailing list. Wales is a big fan of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, the belief in obtaining objective knowledge form measurement. This would ultimately inspire his faith in using measurement by the masses to create an on-line reference work.
Wales and Shell called their dot com Bitter Old Men in Suits (BOMIS). Their first project was a Yahoo-style directory for the city of Chicago. This was around the time (1996) that two Sun Microsystems engineers started DMOZ (directorymozilla.org), the first Internet-wide search engine. They did so with the explicit intent of employing volunteer labor and freely distributing it to the public, under the principle of “Copyleft” or General Public License that underpinned the free software movement (now known as Open Source). The latter was started by MIT hacker Richard Stallman had started in 1985 with an extensive on-line network of hackers.
The hacker community has a very strong ethic that it’s okay to hack into computers and steal software code provided you use it to improve and share the software. In contrast, refusing to share what you have stolen (and improved on) for personal profit is considered totally unethical. The phenomenal success of Open Source products is based on the principle that making your software code public, instead of keeping it secret, allows thousands of programmers to improve it. This is the main reason free downloadable Open Source programs have fewer operating and security glitches than Microsoft and other proprietary software.
Netscape, Linux and Wikiwiki Web
DMOZ subsequently morphed into Netscape, which dropped out of public view after Microsoft pirated and monopolized the concept, by arranging for Microsoft Explorer to be loaded along with windows on every new PC. It was subsequently reborn as Mozilla Firefox, a free Open Source browser greatly preferred by many Internet users for its greater safety and reliability. Because the code that runs it is freely available to the public, it undergoes continuous quality improvement by the thousands of programmers who use it.
Despite its popularity among hackers, the free software movement remained virtually unknown to the wider public until 1992, when a Finnish hacker named Linus Torvalds created Linux, the first free Open Source operating system. Unlike commercial operating systems, such as Windows and Mac OS X, the code on Linux is publicly available, which means its users are constantly improving on it.
Other significant innovations that made Wikipedia possible were the creation of the World Wide Web in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee and the creation of Wikiwiki Web by Ward Cunningham in 1994. Prior to 1992, there were a half dozen different protocols (including Gopher and WAIS) that had to be laboriously typed out to access documents posted on the Internet. Berners-Lee created a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), using a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) for finding on-line documents. Cunningham’s Wiki software enabled any user anywhere to edit any website without having specialized software or knowledge of programming or html (the language used to construct a web page).
To be continued.