On 13 March, CERN commemorated the past 20 years of the World Wide Web in a unique event that gathered together some of the early Web pioneers.

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee returned to CERN, the birth place of his invention, 20 years after submitting his paper entitled Information Management: A Proposal, in March 1989 to his boss Mike Sendall.

This celebration was broadcast live from the Globe and, following an introduction by CERN director general, Rolf Heuer, there were short presentations looking back at some of the early history of the Web. We heard stories and anecdotes from Web pioneers such as Robert Cailliau, Jean-Francois Groff and Ben Segal.

We were then treated to a demo of the world’s first Web server and original browser on the NeXT computer used by Berners-Lee back in 1990. The enthusiasm of the presenters was obvious and we were given a small insight into what it must have been like hearing these gentlemen excitedly explaining this new Web concept to others.

In his keynote speech, Berners-Lee reminisced about his days at CERN, which he considers as a “microcosm of the world”, and praised the unique and diverse environment here. “CERN has come a long way since 1989, and so has the Web, but its roots will always be here.” It was inspiring to hear how all this started from such humble beginnings and a desire to have agreement on just a few simple things such as the URL that have led to the Web as we know it today.

There was also a feeling of looking forward to what the Web will bring in the future, for example on mobile phones where there is a real push from the W3C Mobile Web Initiative to develop best practices for phone browsers. This theme took us through a series of talks from some of today’s Web pioneers, covering diverse areas such as linking data on the Web and a social semantic Web application.

Berners-Lee also took the opportunity to talk about the World Wide Web Foundation. Launched last year, this foundation will look to fund and coordinate efforts for a single Web that is free and open.

And like Berners-Lee said: “The Web is not all done, it’s just the tip of the iceberg...I’m convinced that the new changes are going to rock the world even more.”

Useful links

Event details: http://info.cern.ch/www20/

Video: http://cdsWeb.cern.ch/record/1167328

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): www.w3.org/

World Wide Web Foundation: www.Webfoundation.org/