Lifetime Achievement Award: Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee, Inrupt CTO & creator of the World Wide Web

The inventor of the World Wide Web and one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Important People of the 20th Century’, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is one of the most influential figures in the technology world.

In 1980, Berners-Lee joined CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, where he worked as a software engineer. It was here, in 1989, that he formulated the blueprint for the World Wide Web.

On March 12, 1989, Berners-Lee drafted a proposal titled "Information Management: A Proposal," outlining the fundamental concepts of the World Wide Web. This proposal introduced the ideas of hypertext, URLs, and HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), which form the backbone of the web as we know it today.. This document outlined the idea of a global hypertext system that could easily connect and access information through linked documents. This proposal laid the foundation for what we now know as the World Wide Web.

“Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already,” Berners-Lee described in an interview with The American Academy of Achievement. “I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system. But then the engineering was fairly straightforward. 

“It was designed in order to make it possible to get at documentation and in order to be able to get people — students working with me, contributing to the project, for example — to be able to come in and link in their ideas, so that we wouldn’t lose it all if we didn’t debrief them before they left. Really, it was designed to be a collaborative workspace for people to design on a system together.”

In addition to his vision for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee developed the first web browser, WorldWideWeb, in 1990. This browser allowed users to access information stored on various servers by navigating through hyperlinks. To encourage others to adopt his groundbreaking technologies, Berners-Lee made them freely available, setting the stage for an open and collaborative internet environment. In 1991, he posted the first web page ever, providing a platform for people to access information on the nascent web.

Today, Berners-Lee is the co-founder and CTO of Inrupt.com, a tech start-up which uses, promotes and helps develop the open source Solid platform. Solid aims to give people control and agency over their data, questioning many assumptions about how the web has to work. 

Solid technically is a new level of standard at the web layer, which adds things never put into the original spec, such as global single sign-on, universal access control, and a universal data API so that any app can store data in any storage place. Socially Solid is a movement away from much of the issues with the current WWW, and toward a world in which users are in control, and empowered by large amounts of data, private, shared, and public.

Berners-Lee is the Founder and Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international standards forum for technical development of the Web, and the Web Foundation whose mission is that the World Wide Web serves Humanity. He co-founded and is President of the Open Data Institute in London.

He is also a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Computer Science and AI Lab ("CSAIL”) where his research group works to re-decentralize the web.

In 2004, Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the global development of the internet. He was also awarded the Order of Merit, one of the UK's highest honors, in 2007. Furthermore, he received the Turing Award in 2016 for his invention of the World Wide Web, solidifying his place in history as one of the most influential technologists of all time.

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