During American broadcasters NBC’s coverage of Friday night’s Olympic opening ceremony, their hosts suggested viewers who hadn’t heard of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world-wide-web, should “Google” him. We can only hope it was said with some sense of irony.
But Sir Tim is hardly a household name even in his home country. Back in 2002 the BBC ran a poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons and Berners-Lee was voted 97th on the list, behind Robbie Williams, Boy George and Michael Crawford to name but three.
His journey towards discovery began in the seemingly unlikely circumstances of a project proposal for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) back in 1980 facilitating the sharing of information among researchers. After some experience in computer networking he returned to CERN, seeing an opportunity to join hypertext with the internet and by 1991 the world’s first website http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html was live, and the world-wide-web was born.
Of course, his phenomenal achievement was one thing, but it was what he did with his invention which demands even greater respect. He made the world-wide-web freely available to all and didn’t patent his idea.
Berners-Lee is clearly a man of principle, believing in net neutrality and that access to the internet has now become a fundamental human right, empowering humanity to be connected without borders. Of course, he’s a very wealthy man today, but the mind boggles as to how much wealth he could have accumulated if he was due royalties from every domain bought, website built or online transaction completed.
His profound contribution to human society arguably outweighs anyone else currently living on the planet and his principles of using the internet for the benefit of mankind should be rightly celebrated.
So congratulations to Danny Boyle, the fantastic volunteers and everyone concerned with London 2012 on a wonderful opening ceremony that truly was for everyone, and thank you Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a truly great British inventor whose ingenuity has enriched our lives and for whom us Brits should be truly proud…
…And if you still don’t know why just Google him!