In the early 1980s, the British engineer Tim Berners-Lee
began to develop a networked system for the electronic publishing
of scientific reports at CERN, the particle physics laboratory
in Geneva, Switzerland. This system, named Enquire, was to have
enabled the storing, retrieval, and hyperlinking of documents
through CERN's computer network. It was never completed, but
influenced by Ted Nelson's
experiments with hypertext, digital publishing, and open networking
Berners-Lee expanded on its underlying concepts to explore
how a hypertext system might work in conjunction with the Internet.
Working under his own initiative, in the fall
of 1990 Berners-Lee completed the first Web browser and server
software. In 1991, he began to distribute his software, now
named the World Wide Web, to scientists over the Internet. Berners-Lee's
Web is a software system that unites research, documents, programs,
laboratories and scientists in a fluid, open, hypermedia environment.
It is inherently dynamic, capable of expanding at an explosive
rate; this was a significant departure from the hierarchical
data systems that had previously been the standard. Berners-Lee
was well aware of his system's potential to link documents across
the globe, and to transform our information culture. While his
original focus was on hypertext, from the start he saw the Web's
eventual embrace of multimedia, which could well prove to be
its enduring legacy.