Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tim Berners-Lee

There are plenty of jokes about who invented the Internet and while no one person can take credit for its invention, Tim Berners-Lee certainly made a great contribution to the Internet. In 1989-1991, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee studied Physics at Queen's College at Oxford University. While attending Oxford, Berners-Lee built his first computer using, among other items, an old television. While working as a consultant for CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Berners-Lee wrote a program named "Enquire". "Enquire" was written for his private use and was never published, however, it formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the World Wide Web and was his first program for storing information including using random associations.

After working elsewhere in graphics and communication software, Berners-Lee returned to CERN as a Fellow in 1984. It was during this time that he proposed a global hypertext project and effectively invented the World Wide Web. He wrote the first World Wide Web server, "httpd", and the first client, "WorldWideWeb" a what-you-see-is-what-you-get hypertext browser/editor which ran in the NeXTStep environment.It was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of hypertext documents (explanation taken from w3.org).

Berners-Lee has never tried to obtain intellectual property or commercial rights over the World Wide Web, one of his priorities has been to maintain an openness of information. In 1994, Berners-Lee and MIT founded the World Wide Web Consortium to help the Web to continue to evolve.

Berners-Lee is co-Director of the Web Science Research Initiative and recently wrote a book about the past and future of the web, "Weaving the Web". He continues to promote the web as an open, universal community.

His invention has greatly reduced transaction costs, allowing for information to be shared quickly and easily. Berners-Lee is definitely a Hero of Capitalism.

MIT's http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/berners-lee.html


Tenure said...

A hero of technology, but of Capitalism as well? He never tried to profit from his idea, which I believed was the point of this blog...

... unless you mean the wealth he could have produced, if he had produced it (which actually isn't a small amount, since I imagine he could have made a lot of money).

Kate Sheehan said...

Berners-Lee is a Hero of Capitalism, he used private property, remember ideas are also private property, to create wealth. While Berners-Lee has chosen to not obtain intellectual property or commercial rights over the World Wide Web, his invention still produces wealth everyday by, among other things, reducing transaction costs. This benefits millions of people.

And just because Berners-Lee didn't put intellectual property or commercial rights on his invention doesn't mean he hasn't had other opportunities to personally profit from his invention. He has written a book based on his invention and has done speaking engagements about the World Wide Web. Oh and then there is always the value he gets from knowing his invention helps to maintain openness of information.

Tenure said...

I understand. It's just, making wealth for other people isn't really what I think of as being a Hero of Capitalism.
Putting the 'freedom of information' above your own personal profit seems a bit altruistic, but maybe I've got something wrong there.

Like I said, I can see that what he did was good, that he saw something he valued spread widely, but that's not being a Capitalist, that's being a... I don't know. A Capitalist is someone who is making money from a good, popularised idea, not just someone with a good, popularised idea.

David said...

I define a "hero of Capitalism" as someone who makes others better off in a remarkable way in the pursuit of personal goals through voluntary relationships. This would include people whose goals are altruistic. The benefits of Capitalism are broader than the immediate economic gains individuals enjoy when they engage in trade, and that is what I celebrate.