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The Memo That Opened the Web

Back when CERN first allowed non-scientists to start dicking around online, too.

If the Internet has taught me anything it’s that history is a bitch. And awfully reductive, at that.

History is inherently unstable. It is at constant odds with its noisy, sprawling self. The story is never not looking back over its shoulder. The past is never not being evoked and written down, and then written down again, even as it continues careening helplessly into a sobering unknown. And it’s that retrospection, the recalling of the story so far, that often tilts history toward a handful of flashpoints – the first computer, say, or the birth of the World Wide Web.


This isn’t the historian’s fault so much as it is non-historians looking for vague excuses to get blasted on culturally relevant anniversaries, birthdays and milestones. But, still. History likes a good marker. And this can blot out the slow grind of progress that every so often lights the fuse.

Take the history of the World Wide Web. The Web’s back-story is insanely drawn out and knotty (and not at all free of government and military influence). The Web has many birthdays and just as many, if not more, pioneering architects. I won’t even begin to try pointing out every breakthrough in the unlikely leap from an idea cooked up in the early 1980s by Tim Berners-Lee, then an independent contractor at CERN in Geneva, to you, sitting right there, pretending to work but really just dicking around on the Internet like you always do / the rest of us.

But at the risk of being reductionist, or of coming off desperate for some vague excuse to call off the rest of the day, I’ll hazard the guess that the Web, for all its promise and pitfalls, would be a much different place if it weren’t for a short declaration from CERN’s then directors nearly two decades ago today.

On April 30, 1993, the Web was opened to the public.

Read the rest over at Motherboard.