Darren Waters

The best things in life are free

  • Darren Waters
  • 30 Apr 08, 14:10 GMT
CERN relinquishes all intellectual property rights to this code, both source and binary form and permission is granted for anyone to use, duplicate, modify and redistribute it.

With these words the world wide web was truly born. On 30 April 1993 the two directors of the Cern particle physics lab, W Hoogland and H Weber, signed a document that made the web free to use, adapt, change, grow and develop.

It was a remarkable decision. It turned the internet from a physical network of computers into a practical tool for sharing because finally there was simple data management system which made it easy to connect to and share information across machines.

Jack Schofield over at the Guardian, chides us for doing "web birthday" pieces. But he's missing the point somewhat.

This is about a seemingly simple decision which transformed the fortunes of the net.

As Robert Cailliau who worked at Cern told me: "We had to convince them that this was going to take off and it was a really big thing. And therefore Cern couldn't hold on to it and the best thing to do was to give it away."

Without a free web, he said, "we would have had some sort of market share alongside services like AOL and Compuserve, but we would not have flattened the world".

I think that decision is worth noting.


  • Comment number 1.

    Not only transformed the fortunes of the net, but of our entire world.

    What if the web, or what ever it might have turned out to be, was a commercial venture? I guess we wouldn't miss it because we would be ignorant of its possibility.

    And, how many other great inventions in modern times have suffered at the hands of commercial tyranny? Similarly ignorant, we are as to the full extent of this.

    Human knowledge and endeavor is all the while being stripped of its true value and potential to human kind because of greed. A patent and intellectual-property-rights tyranny that somehow manages to transform injustice into apparent-justice. Blissful ignorance.

    How grateful i am to Hoogland, Weber and all at CERN. I still remember a moment, when in 1994, i typed WWW for the first time and saw a menu of hyperlinks. I remember the excitement as we began to realize the possibilities. I shall never forget it.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done!

    It's nice to see someone giving the CREN sign-over some publicity. That decision was what allowed the web to develop into something that (pretty-much) anyone can access.

    I cannot believe how little I read about it yesterday! I thought it would have been a bigger story, especially on the 'tech' sites.

    Thanks for marking the event Darren, and bringing it to the attention of a wider audience.

    Jim Connolly

  • Comment number 3.

    @JimConnolly As Jack Schofield teased... there's a danger of doing too many 'birthday' stories.

    But I thought this was worth marking. And it's always great to talk to TBL and Robert Cailliau.

    Thanks for the kind comment

  • Comment number 4.

    I dont know what that quote do, but whatever it has done, it has changed the way we live.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites