Monday, October 13, 2014

Netscape Navigator 20 Years Ago Today

On October 13, 1994, browsing went digital. Netscape Navigator was initially released as a public beta and set the trend for free software on the internet. While it was eventually overtaken by Internet Explorer, it was no doubt the most influential browser ever.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy 25th birthday Web

In March 1989, Iran breaks diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, President George H.W. Bush passes landmark gun control, the Exxon Valdez spills 240,000 barrels of oil, and, oh the World Wide Web was invented.

On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN, wrote the proposal that defined the Web.

Fun fact: Mr. Berners-Lee originally called it Mesh, and when he decided on "World Wide Web" there was considerable consternation over that name, because it was hard to pronounce in French.  CERN, the multi-nation European research organization is based in the suburbs of Geneva, Switzerland, near the French-Swiss border.

"We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities.

The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards. The result should be sufficiently attractive to use that it the information contained would grow past a critical threshold, so that the usefulness the scheme would in turn encourage its increased use.

The passing of this threshold accelerated by allowing large existing databases to be linked together and with new ones."

Read the full version of the proposal here.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Get the New Atlas of the Internet

A new printed guide, detailing facts about the world wide web in a fold-out, pop-up physical booklet thingy.  Less of an atlas, and more of an infographic art project for an Edward Tufte protege, it still has punchy visuals.  Great coffee table book for your office reception area.

Check out the video after the break.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Robert Metcalfe

Happy birthday Robert Metcalfe, born on this day 1946. Metcalf is credited with co-inventing the Ethernet which is celebrating its 40 year anniversary this year. Metcalfe's Law, which first defined the network effect before the network effect was the network effect, was also named after him.

Ethernet enabled computers to communicate within a LAN transfering data to and fro, and brought internet juice to our machines before there was wi-fi.
But more entertainingly, he should also be known for being Technology's worst predictor.  He claimed mobile telecommunications was a fad, called the Open Source movement the Open Sores Movement, and was convinced the internet would collapse.

Metcalfe now does professor things at The University of Texas at Austin, probably not teaching Linux.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Queen Elizabeth Awards and Rewards Five Internet Pioneers

Five internet pioneers who in no way need $1.5 million, won $1.5 million today for their efforts in building the essential components of the internet.  The inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering aims to be the Nobel Prize for the engineering world, focusing on innovations that have been "of global benefit to humanity".  And they certainly started with biggest names.  Here's what the Queen has to say:

"The first QE Prize for Engineering was awarded to five people who made major contributions to the development of the internet and the WWW: Louis Pouzin, Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen each played a significant part in the development of the technology.

Louis Pouzin, Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf made seminal contributions to the protocols (or standards) that together make up the fundamental architecture of the Internet.

Tim Berners-Lee created the worldwide web (WWW) which vastly extended the use of the Internet beyond email and file transfer.

Marc Andreessen wrote the Mosaic browser that was widely distributed and which made the WWW accessible to everyone. His work triggered a huge number of applications unimagined by the early network pioneers.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When Was Email Invented?

Well, it's complicated.  Depending on how you define email, (or "e-mail" if you're a jerk) the range spreads across 130 years.  And since a recent controversy rekindled the debate, let's lay out the issue as such.

ANSWER 1:  If you define email as any correspondence happening electronically, in a strict Antonin Scalia-originalism sort of way, then you would consider Morse Code as the first form of email.  Which, well, makes sense in that it was binary, employing dots and dashes instead of 1's and 0's  Year: 1836

ANSWER 2:  If you believe the correspondence should be in human language form, then you would give credit to Western Union and the U.S. Department of Defense for the development of the Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN), a computerized message switching system using second-generation computers and switching centers, where messages were usually sent to a printer.  Year: 1958

ANSWER 3:  If you believe it can't be email unless addresses have the"@" symbol over the "inter"-"net", then you will credit Ray Tomlinson and ARPANET for inventing a messaging system that traveled across multiple networks and introducing the email address that distinguished between user and machine.  Tomlinson in fact is largely considered the inventor of email.  Year: 1971

ANSWER 4:  If you believe email was invented whenever the term email was first used, then maybe you might credit V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai who claims to have said the word "email" first.  Year: 1979

You decide.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Out Firefoxed

Three years after it originally launched in beta, Google Chrome has officially taken the position as #2 most popular web browser in November, overtaking Firefox, according to web tracker StatCounter. A bitter 7 year birthday gift for Mozilla, which launched Firefox 1.0 in November 2004. Impressive really. As you can see in the chart below, the green Chrome line has been growing, and the orange Firefox line is declining, and then they meet.
Now some worry about the very existence of Firefox as an independent browser, especially given that a majority of its revenue comes from its Google relationship. We at ET feel confident that as long as it continues to use the open source model to deliver first-to-market stuff, it will carve out its market share. Or not. One has to imagine there will always be room for an indie browser.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs' Contribution to the Internet

The NeXT Computer used by Berners-Lee. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

As founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs was an internet pioneer in his own right. He created great stuff that made the internet look great. But largely overlooked is his contribution away from Apple.

His biggest impact is with something we never really saw, his NeXT Computer. When Jobs left apple, he immediately took some Apple employees and founded NeXT. There they designed high powered workstations, and build an operating system that catapulted object-oriented programming to mainstream computing.

A NeXT Computer is in fact what Tim Berners-Lee used to create the first web browser called WorldWideWeb. The very same computer also acted and as the first web server. That's like inventing ice cream and the cone, it's that groundbreaking.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BBC's Digital Revolution

BBC is working on a four part documentary about how the digital world is changing our lives.  Which is sort of like stating that Tiger Woods needs a divorce lawyer.  You know, because it's like stating the obvious.  That aside, it should make for an interesting archival for where we are today - a snapshot of how the digerati saw the world in the first decade of the 21st century.

And to show they are practicing what they preach, the producers, lead by actor Stephen Fry, are dropping the web two point oh bomb every where they can, and even describing this as an "open source documentary".  The "Digital Revolution" is a working title while the new one is being crowd-sourced via Twitter (you can follow them @bbcdigrev).  Offering up scores of editable video snippets to the public, complete with transcripts and a permissive copyright license, is a nice thought and has made for interesting public mash-ups.  But an open source documentary?  BBC, you doth exaggerate too much.

No matter, ET will be watching and is excited to see the line up of interesting interviews with such digital luminaries as Vint Cerf, Steve Wozniak, and Jimmy Wales.  ET will also be giving out a prize to whoever guesses how many times the word "google" is mentioned.  Safe to say it will be used slightly more frequently than "virtual", but less frequently than "tweet".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Slasher Apologizes

    Image courtesy of          

On 12-November 1990, Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to build a "Hypertext Project" and called it the World Wide Web. He is also credited with coming up with the hypertext transfer protocol that looks familiar to the world as http://www.

Fast forward to October 2009, when Sir Tim admits that the two forward slashes were completely unnecessary. "Really, if you think about it, it doesn't need the //. I could have designed it not to have the //"

Smart move waiting 19 years to confess Sir Tim. Confession begins at 3:00 in the video.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The EU take on the history of the internet

History involves the study of cause and effect, and it is definitely in play with this video. It does a good job of telling the story of past events in the early history of the internet, but the European producers give much too much credit to European foundations for their contributions. Let's take the UK's National Physical Laboratory. The video gives credit to the NPL for introducing the concept of packet-switching, which is the foundation for scalable file transfer on the internet. While NPL did develop this concept somewhat independently, it was RAND Corp. in the U.S. that originally conceived of the concept that was later adopted by ARPANET. NPL did come up with the term "packet-switching". So OK, we can give them some credit.

The video goes on to credit Cyclades, the research institute in France, for the term "inter-net", which is, well, funny. Cyclades did great research on alternatives to the network protocols built into ARPANET, but nothing substantial made its way back to ARPANET. Cyclades eventually lost its funding and shut its doors in 1981.

Come on Europeans. I know you've had a bit of a complex through the years about your contributions to the early building blocks of the internet, but this lays it on too thick. You don't see Turkey taking credit away from France for the croissant do you? Oh right, you do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who Founded the Internet?

The birth of the internet as an idea can be traced back to a Belgian man named Paul Otlet. In 1934, Otlet presciently described the internet as "electric telescopes" that would enable people to browse, search and discover any type of document through a network of links.

He began building his own network called the Mundaneum, comprised of a staff solely dedicated to indexing as much content as humanely possible.

Before there was Vint Cerf, Bob Khan, and DARPA, there was Paul Otlet, the first internet theorist.