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Last updated at 18:27 GMT, Friday, 14 January 2011

Happy Birthday, WWW!

Summary

24 December 2010

It’s been 20 years since British scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the first webpage. The World Wide Web has since spawned about one trillion webpages. It revolutionised the way we communicate and some people can’t imagine life without it. Can you? Email us at learning.english@bbc.co.uk and tell us how you use the web.

Reporter:
Valdirene Ruston

Girl with computer

A whole new generation grew up with the web

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Report

On Christmas Day 1990, in a laboratory in Switzerland, British physicist Tim Berners-Lee finished developing the tools to create the World Wide Web. He was working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, Cern, in Geneva.

His boss gave him the green light to work on the project during his spare time and together with the help of his Belgian colleague Robert Cailliau, Tim Berners-Lee produced the world’s first webpage.

The experiment heralded a new era because it demonstrated how computers could talk to each other through a new language they created called Hyper-Text Markup Language, or HTML.

Currently there might be anything up to a trillion webpages with all sorts of content. People buy and sell products and services, make friends through these pages, learn and teach. We found many enthusiasts of the web in the streets of London.

Man 1: “It means having information in your home with easy access which in the past would have only been available in thousands of libraries. So it’s information at your fingertips.”

Woman: “Access to a lot of people really. We’ve got a lot of family overseas so we use Skype quite a bit.”

Man 2: “Information, news, social groups.”

Man 3: “I’m just using it usually for emails and social networking with my friends and well, reading newspapers and information. Basically everything!”

Fortunes were made in the World Wide Web. Many say that Tim Berners-Lee could have been a billionaire through his invention but he said that all he wants is to keep the egalitarian spirit of the web intact and the medium free to use. Many users share the same ideals.

Man 1: “I think that today it is essential to have an internet connection and that’s going to be a real problem in terms of you know, digital divide when some people in the world can’t access the internet or when the speed (connection speed) is not enough.”

And there are other concerns.

Woman: “I’m not very keen on that because of all the privacy issues and everything, I’m very aware of it. So I try to keep private things private as much as I can.”

And there are the diehards, who shy away from technology.

Man 2: “I leave it all to my wife, I hate computers.”

Valdirene Ruston, BBC Learning English

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Vocabulary

physicist

expert in the scientific study of matter and energy

tools

things that help you to do a particular activity

the green light

here, approval. This is a reference to traffic lights

spare time

time when you are not working

heralded

a sign that something positive is about to happen

content

elements or components of media

egalitarian

belief that people have the same importance and should have the same rights and opportunities

digital divide

used to refer to the gap between people who have access to the internet and those who don't

diehards

people who do not want to change

shy away

avoid something you are afraid of