Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, envisioning a global information space where documents and other web resources could be identified with uniform names, where documents and resources could be retrieved in a standard way, and where documents could be connected by hypertext links. To this end, Sir Tim introduced a universal resource naming scheme based on URIs and URLs; the HTTP protocol for sending and receiving information across the Internet in a scalable and decentralized way; and the HTML markup language, which provided a standard way for documents to be created and displayed in a device-independent manner and linked to other documents. In addition, Sir Tim created the first web browser and web serving software, and he did so in an open-source fashion that catalyzed the Web's further development.
While all know the World Wide Web as having had enormous societal impact, this ACM Turing Award also recognizes the Web as a contribution of lasting and major technical importance to the computing community, due to its simplicity, elegance, and extensibility. While Sir Tim could have assembled more complex technologies with additional features, his design was an elegant solution that enabled enormous capability—both initially and over time:
- Sir Tim recognized that simplicity was needed for widespread adoption (particularly in the scientific community he served). His protocol simplifications (including his insistence on statelessness) made the design easy to implement; his use of human-readable scripting made the system comprehensible and easy to debug.
- Sir Tim built HTML into the Web, recognizing that this would make data comprehensible and useful to anyone trying to publish information.
- Sir Tim's initial browser and early web server made the system immediately useful.
- Sir Tim furthered widespread adoption of the Web by freely distributing a software package and creating an open-source community that enabled many others to use and refine the technology.
The Web design is described in an early Communications of the ACM paper ("The World Wide Web," Aug. 1994, Volume 37, No. 8, pp. 76-82), where Sir Tim described his vision for the Web, as well as the technical underpinnings to make that vision a reality.
Sir Tim's contributions to the Web go far beyond the creation of the original code. He created and shaped the World Wide Web Consortium, which has developed the standards that are so crucial to Web development and use. He was also a founder of the Web Science Trust, a British charitable trust devoted to the interdisciplinary study of the Web and its effect on society, and the World Wide Web Foundation, which works to establish the open web as a public good and a basic right. Sir Tim continues to extend his original invention and is a passionate advocate for adding semantic annotation to the web.
In short, the Web is what it is today because of Sir Tim's brilliant design, based on his synthesis of several key ideas and his technical leadership. The ACM recognizes Sir Tim with the Turing Award for this enduring contribution to the computing community.