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Biography of Timothy John Berners-Lee

Timothy John Berners-Lee was born to Conway Berners-Lee and Mary Lee Woods in London on 8 June 1955. He went to Sheen Mount Primary School before proceeding to the grammar school, Emmanuel School for four years. After leaving the school in 1973, Berners-Lee joined the Oxford-based, The Queen’s College to study for his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Physics. He was among the best students in his class and graduated with a first class degree in 1976 (MIT n.pag; World Wide Web Consortium n.pag).

            From a young age, Berners-Lee had a fascination with electronics, a behavior that can be attributed to his parents who were computer engineers. The couple was pioneers in their own respect having worked as part of the team, which helped in building some of the first commercial computers. They worked on the project at the University of Manchester. He pursued his childhood passion after graduation and joined Dorset-based company, Plessey as an engineer. By the time he joined the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1980, he had already developed a strong interest in software engineering. After working at Plessey, Berners-Lee worked as a typesetting software developer at D. G. Nash. The Dorset-based company specialized in printer software development.

His short stint at the Geneva-based scientific research organization saw him work on a prototype for sharing information using hypertext. He was a contracted as an independent specialist in software development for close to six months. He moved back to work in Dorset at the end of his contract and spent three years working on computer networking-related projects for a Dorset firm where he was appointed to head the company’s technical docket. His second stint at CERN as a fellow, which began in 1984, was more revolutionary. Armed with computer networking skills he had previously learned, he developed the World Wide Web (WWW) and the first website which operated within CERN where its server was hosted in 1990. His invention successfully merged the internet and hypertext (MIT n.pag; World Wide Web Consortium n.pag). Over the years, Berners-Lee has dedicated his life to increasing information and internet accessibility including supporting initiatives such as net neutrality and open access to government data (Ghosh n.pag; BBC News n.pag). He has founded and cofounded several organizations, some of which are dedicated to improving the performance of the Internet and the World Wide Web through transformative and improved technologies. He has also dedicated his time to improving the security and privacy of data people share online via the World Wide Web.  

Due to his inventions, Timothy John Berners-Lee has been honored with several awards including the Turing Award in 2016. He was the 1995 Young Innovator of the Year as awarded by Kilby Foundation. He has been awarded honorary degrees from numerous prestigious learning institutions such as Yale, University of Southampton, University of Essex, Harvard and the University of Manchester among others. He was also honored with a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II who has knighted him thrice. He received his Order of the British Empire (OBE) recognition in 1997, became a Knight Commander in 2004 and received his Order of Merit (OM) commendation from the Queen in 2007 (World Wide Web Consortium n.pag). In 2001, Berners-Lee was made a Fellow of both the Royal Society and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a World Wide Web Hall of Famer, a befitting title to the man who created it ( n.pag).                    

Analysis of the Historical Contributions of Timothy John Berners-Lee

            Timothy John Berners-Lee was the first person to conceive and successfully actualize the concept of merging hypertext and internet. The resulting creation was the World Wide Web, which is a global computer network that allows millions of computers to connect via the Internet. He successfully created the first website while working at CERN and used hypertext to present and share information with colleagues within the research organization. He hosted the website from a computer based within the facility. He also developed HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which is a commonly used web publishing language. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the unique identifiers for resources found on the web were also developed by Berners-Lee. Currently known as uniform resource locator (URLs), these unique identifiers play an integral role in identifying web resources using their unique identifiers (MIT, n.pag). He was the first person to create a functioning Web browser capable of sharing and transferring information between different users using hypertext.

Additionally, Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web at a time when the Internet had already been developed. However, his successful merger of hypertext and the internet allowed him to create the world’s first web server, which has become an important component of today’s telecommunication platform. He pioneered a new era of Internet usage and moved it into the mainstream telecommunication conversations at the time. The Web has expanded how humans. It has especially expanded our communication platform by offering new and innovative technological options that are hinged on Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web and associated technologies including a Web server. The modern day innovative communication platforms that use emails for sending and receiving audiovisual and written text files were developed using Berners-Lee’s idea of a Web server.

Web servers have also radically changed human’s information storing capacity with new technologies such as Microsoft’s Cloud computing technology continuously emerging as evolutionary ideas based on Berners-Lee’s creations. His invention allowed the Internet to transform from an idea and invention that was privately used by a few organizations into a global phenomenon that has gripped the conscious of humanity in the 21st century and predictably, will continue to play an integral in shaping future human societies. Berners-Lee’s creation also radically changed the labor market in numerous ways. But most importantly, it created new professions whose depth of importance for governments and organizations have continued to grow with each passing decade.        

            The World Wide Web and the accompanying technologies created by Berners-Lee have radically changed the telecommunication landscape. They revolutionized information sharing and communication not only within organizations but also globally. He is one of the pioneers of the Information Age as the World Wide Web has provided a launch pad for the creation of an information space that has become a powerful tool in all spheres of human life. Today, governments, businesses, learning institutions and individuals rely on the World Wide Web for information and data. The World Wide Web has transformed the learning environment and is responsible for the emergence of new learning approaches such as online learning and other components of learning carried out online. For governments and businesses, the World Wide Web has facilitated the provision of essential services through their websites including information sharing, customer relation practices and data collection. New telecommunication ideas that are thriving today including Facebook and LinkedIn owe their existence to that first website Timothy John Berners-Lee created using a small computer in CERN as a server.

            However, Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee’s contributions to technology are not confined to the history books. As an innovator, he had continued to contribute to the development and transformation of the Web in relation to emerging issues. Some of the current challenges many users of Web and Internet-based technologies are facing include data and information privacy and security, speed of performance and accessibility. With an increasing number of services and spheres of human life aggregating towards the Internet which uses the Web and Web-based applications such as Facebook and Google, nefarious and malicious users have targeted private data of both individuals and organizations. To tackle this problem, Berners-Lee has continuously worked with other partners to improve the privacy and ownership of data provided by users on Web-based applications.

            Another current technological issue with historic underpinning that Berners-Lee has passionately contributed to is accessibility and affordability of Internet services. He has partnered with several organizations to ensure that Internet services are easily and affordably accessed in underdeveloped and developing nations (Gibbs n.pag). This is informed by the growing importance of the Internet in the dispensation of critical services within the global community. His efforts also include championing for net neutrality, which a new ideology that seeks to block the various threats by posed to the Internet by organizations such as the government. Berners-Lee believes that Internet users should be allowed to freely use the Internet without any interference by these organizations and entities with the capacity to control the Internet including internet service providers (Cellan-Jones n.pag). This includes non-restriction on what content users can send, receive or view online or which Web pages they can view.            

How Timothy John Berners-Lee Influenced/Inspired Me

            Timothy John Berners-Lee has significantly influenced my perception of technology. He has shown that technology can be used to champion for good causes including positively transforming our societies. His primary motivation for creating the World Wide Web was to share information within CERN where he was working. However, he scaled up the scope of the technology to include global computers. In the process, Berners-Lee created a global information space that has positively transformed all spheres of human life. The technology has made telecommunication, transport and trade easier. It has opened up new frontiers of public administration including information sharing with the public which has become a critical component of accountability.

            Timothy John Berners-Lee symbolizes the scalability and evolutionary nature of technology. The World Wide Web is no longer a technology confined within CERN. It has become a global phenomenon that has seen started social, economic and political revolutions across various geopolitical regions. It put information at the center stage of human development and consequently, evolved into an important component of everyday human life. The global information space created by the World Wide Web that Beners-Lee started when he launched the first website in 1990 has become the symbol of a new era in human existence. It is an era marked by a push for creating a global community. In my view, Berners-Lee is the pioneer of globalization. His invention created the first platform were global communities could share information.

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