Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the reason you’re reading this story in a web browser, complete with hypertext and an internet address that looks like this: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/06/sir-tim-berners-lee/. But you weren’t supposed to see the address.
In building the first web browser at Switzerland’s CERN nuclear research lab in the early ’90s, the English-born Berners-Lee designed a system where only the technicians behind the scenes would see addresses. The ordinary web user would only see text and hypertext, jumping from page to page without ever typing on a keyboard.
“On the initial design of the web, you didn’t see the http:// when you were a user. You just read text and you clicked on links,” Berners-Lee tells Wired. “In the original web browser, you had to bring up a special link inspector to see addresses. That’s why I wasn’t worried about http:// being ugly. No one would really see it.”
As the web grew, this particular vision was lost — at least in part. But you’d have to say that the web still exceeded expectations. In 2010, according to the International Telecommunication Union, close to a third of the world’s population was using the web, and after beginning life as a means of merely sharing text, it has evolved into a medium that shares everything...
All Van Jacobson wanted to do was upload a few documents to the internet. Unfortunately, it was 1985.
The internet wasn’t yet called the internet. It was called the ARPAnet, and it had only recently been upgraded to the TCP/IP protocol that still underpins the internet today. Jacobson was teaching a computer science course at the University of California at Berkeley, and all he wanted to do was upload some class materials to Berkeley’s computers so his students could read them. But the internet wasn’t really working. The network throughput was about a bit per second. In other words, it was slow as molasses.
“I was getting a bit per second between two network gateways that were literally in the same room,” Jacobson remembers.
For the next six months, Jacobson — together with Mike Karels, who oversaw Berkeley’s BSD UNIX operating system — worked to solve this internet traffic jam, and the result was an update to TCP that is widely hailed as averting an internet meltdown in the late 80s and early 90s. The soft-spoken Jacobson doesn’t see it that way, but his pioneering work with the internet’s underlying protocols recently earned him a spot in the inaugural class of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) Internet Hall of Fame, alongside such as names as Vint Cerf, Steve Crocker, and Tim Berners-Lee.
In 1985, Berkeley ran one of the IMPs, or interface message processors, that served as the main nodes on the ARPAnet, a network funded by the U.S. Department...
Steve Crocker was there when the internet was born. The date was Oct. 29, 1969, and the place was the University of California, Los Angeles. Crocker was among a small group of UCLA researchers who sent the first message between the first two nodes of the ARPAnet, the U.S. Department of Defense–funded network that eventually morphed into the modern internet.
Crocker’s biggest contribution to the project was the creation of the Request for Comments, or RFC. Shared among the various research institutions building the ARPAnet, these were documents that sought to describe how this massive network would work, and they were essential to its evolution — so essential, they’re still used today.
Like the RFCs, Crocker is still a vital part of the modern internet. He’s the chairman of the board of ICANN, the organization which operates the internet’s domain naming system, following in the footsteps of his old high school and UCLA buddy Vint Cerf. And like Cerf, Crocker is part of the inaugural class inducted into the Internet Society‘s (ISOC) Hall of Fame.
The network doesn’t spread itself. Humans have to do it.
And Randy Bush, a longtime network engineer, has been spreading the internet around the world since the 1980s on his free time, something he considers to be an extension of the radical and progressive politics of his parents and grandparents. And of his hippie years in the 1960s.
For his pioneering work, Bush was among the first 33 inductees into the Internet Society’s Hall of Fame. ISOC noted Bush for his founding of the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a nonprofit funded in part by the National Science Foundation that’s dedicated to helping new networks sprout up around the world.
After the tumult of the 1960s, Bush settled into a career as a computer engineer, which he considered a far cry from political activism. But then the late 1980s, Bush began getting requests from computer engineers from Africa and Latin America to help them be connected to internet.
“There were perfectly good scientists that were isolated and becoming out of date very quickly,” Bush said. “The internet at that point was not Facebook – it was scientists and NGOs.”
Bush, seeing an opportunity to do some social good with his computer-engineering skills, soon found himself volunteering.
And he soon found it was political, though he wasn’t averse to getting help from The Man.
Bush credits a...
Fourteen years ago, as a lawyer for Netscape, Mitchell Baker created the open source license that made Netscape’s code free. It was a fateful event for both Baker and the web: Baker ended up leading a small skunkworks project called Mozilla that was eventually spun out into a standalone foundation devoted to making the web better generally, and to offering an alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer specifically. With its Firefox browser, Mozilla is now bigger and more influential than ever, and Baker still serves as its chair.
Meanwhile, the open source, open-web spirit of Mozilla lives on in thousands of projects: GitHub, Android development, HTML5 apps and in Firefox itself. Now, with a healthy 25 percent browser share, Firefox is in a fast-paced browser race with Google’s own open source browser and Microsoft’s vastly improved IE9.
Not bad for a scrappy non-profit that had to fight for the hearts, minds and desktops of the world’s computer users, nearly all of whom were deeply controlled by Microsoft’s monopoly.
For her efforts fighting for user software that doesn’t suck, Baker is being inducted into the Internet Society’s Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.
In this interview with Wired, Baker looks back on Firefox’s success and what it meant — and explains why she thinks Mozilla’s new push to create a mobile operating system to rival...