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How The Web Was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web (Popular Science) Paperback – 7 Dec 2000
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Today the Web is pervasive, and it is hard to believe that as recently as 1990 it was merely a small project at CERN (Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire). This book tells the story. It starts in the sixties, when Paul Baran in California and Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington independently came up with the idea of packet switching--part of the technology that makes the Internet possible. Then there was ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), set up by the US Department of Defence, and ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, and in 1983 the beginning of the Internet itself.
Having the network is one thing, but for millions of people it is the Web that makes it useful. On 23 June 1980 Tim Berners-Lee joined CERN, and the authors describe how his work and ideas evolved until in 1989 he made a proposal for hyperlinked documents, on which his boss Mike Sendall scribbled the words "vague but exciting".
Written by two senior members of CERN, How the Web Was Born is a readable and carefully-researched account of the Web's earliest years. It is an international story, but while there is plenty of coverage of development around the world, this book is particularly valuable thanks to its European perspective. Technical terms are explained, and the general reader will be grateful for the appendices which include a timeline, list of key individuals, bibliography, explanation of acronyms, and of course an index. The Web is young and it is too soon for a definitive history, but this is essential reading for anyone with an interest in how it all started. Read it alongside Weaving the Web, by Tim Berners-Lee himself. --Tim Anderson
This is a scholarly work for the price of a novel (Gareth Price)
It is not a light read but it is a good one! (David Coleman, Multimedia Information and Technology, February 2001)
excellent book (New Scientist 30/9/00)
a good read (Glasgow Herald, 22/9/00)
Top customer reviews
Beginning with the development of the underlying communications infrastructure, the authors describe how what we now know as the Internet evolved from being a nuclear "bombproof" US military network in the late 1960s to becoming the "mother of all networks" so beloved of the academic research communities in the 1970s and 1980s. With these foundations thus laid, the book goes on to describe how the seemingly ambitiously named "World Wide Web" was built on top of the existing Internet in the early 1990s, and just how quickly the medium has since gained acceptance and widespread usage throughout the civilised world.
Probably the most significant achievement of "How the Web was Born" is the technical history is covered in a rigorous but yet lively fashion, with lots of human interest being included to give a background to the various different academic, military and commercial interests which led to the practical development of innovative new ideas in both computer hardware and software, as well as in telecommunications technology and the man - machine interface. As such, "How the Web was Born" has much to offer the casual reader, while not disappointing the more technically minded savant: In all, the authors have provided a most excellent and enjoyable read, whilst still maintaining an authority and attention to technical detail which could make this book a definitive history of the subject in years to come.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is notable for really digging back into the precursors of the Web. I've been in networking since 1979 and there were a lot of new things for me to learn in the book.
The book is weak where it over invests in the politics at CERN and especially around the horse-trading that resulted in the consortia that manages the Web, W3C. The last fifty pages of what been an engrossing read just drag and drag.
I'd give the first two thirds of the book at least four stars, the last third two at best. Still, if you're really interested in how things like URL, HTTP, HTML, DNS, etc came about, this is worth making the effort.
This account of the beginning of the web is both entertaining and informative. I highly recommend it to anybody whose introduction to computer science has been the web: this book will fill in a lot of the gaps about the origins of all sorts of topics ,such as hypertext and networking.
I find it interesting that the authors did not always take a linear approach to their subject. Several chapters concentrated on a particular sub-topic, bringing it forward from its root in the fifties or sixties or even earlier, all the way through the nineties.
Then the next chapter would likewise deal with a different but related sub-topic. I found this non-linear approach to be much like the World Wide Web itself. Considering one of the authors was intimately involved with the birth of the Web, I wouldn't be surprised if the book were intended to flow this way....it makes it so that you could conceivably jump around from chapter, just like jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink....
This book might also make good reading for people who are close to web geeks, but aren't geeks themselves. As long as they are intelligent enough to understand computing concepts, it will help explain to them what this fascination of ours is all about. Hey, it may even get THEM interested ;)
Tim Berners-Lee came up with the original idea and had the vision and tenacity to push it forward. This book goes back to the origins of the internet - eg. the ARPANET in the US and various other efforts in Europe to lay the ground work for the Web story. One thing about the backround was the fact that the French internet development effort `Cyclades', initially had more flexibility - allowing software addressing, than ARPANET, however, ultimately the European efforts could not maintain the momentum of the US efforts by virtue of their complex funding and management structures. The US efforts evolved faster, addressing mainly of its initial short comings and gained widespread acceptance.
Another indicator, mentioned in the book, of the relative speeds of European vs US development efforts is indicated in the battle for acceptance of TCP/IP vs. OSI standards for computer intercommunication. OSI is an international standards development organisation, and on the face of it, an international communications standard - even if developed slowly - must triumph over de-facto standards. However the pace of OSI development was glacial, and TCP/IP worked and continued to work as the internet grew and grew. Eventually TCP/IP gained such widespread acceptance that it was impossible to ignore.
The pattern repeated itself with the Web - developed in Europe, the first web sites were all European, it was taken up enthusiastically by various US-based software engineers. As Berners-Lee was so short staffed, he appealed to volunteers to write browsers for various types of computers - and Marc Anderson in Illonois' National Centre for Supercomputer Applications, wrote a browser (called Mosaic) which was suitable for personal computers. The book makes clear the Anderson's team worked frenetically, but the code design was viewed as very poor by the CERN team [ they described it as MarcA mode, i.e. buggy]. However the browser launched the World Wide Web to mass appeal and changed the world.
The book briefly describes how Berners-Lee saw the need of a forum to control the development of the Web and could only find practical support for this in the US (at MIT), - despite repeated appeals for funding from various European sources, again a missed opportunity for Europe.
The book has a failing in being too deferential to Berners-Lee (it is co-authored by one of his co-workers in the development effort) but it is an essential read from a European perspective on how the US has the ability, the resources and the ability to recognize and develop innovations
All the implications generated by this colossal invention, including the whole change of paradigms and profound transformations in our quotidian lives are described with notable erudition and precision.
Once you have started it will be too hard to leave this passionate reading.
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