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SirTim

This month, we’re looking at people who challenged the status quo and made a difference. Last week, I talked about defying the cold and getting together with my hibernating neighbors. This week, I thought we’d go a bit bigger. Since the world is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web this month, I thought it might be apt to spotlight the man known as the “Father of the Web,” Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In 1989, Sir Tim sent his boss at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (in Geneva) a proposal for an information management system. Apparently, his boss’s reaction at the time was tepid, but not a “no.” So Sir Tim forged ahead – challenging the status quo – and ultimately created the first web server, which went live in 1991.

Did he make a difference? According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, today 87 percent of U.S. adults use the Internet. That’s a bit of an uptick from 1995, when 42 percent of U.S. adults had never even heard of the Internet.

I know that the Web can get a bad rap. Some say it alienates and isolates us, and can be a dangerous place for young people. But, the Pew study also noted that 90 percent of those surveyed say the Internet has been good for them and 76 percent say it has been good for society. So, yes, I’d say Sir Tim made a difference.

An interesting aside: Sir Tim noted that when he developed the initial Web technology 25 years ago, there was another system called “Gopher” created by the University of Minnesota. He said it wasn’t as good as his Web, but the Gopher system had come earlier and did have more users. Reportedly, the U of M said, in the future, they would possibly charge a royalty for commercial uses. As a result, Gopher traffic dropped off precipitously. Sir Tim predicted at the time that royalties would never be charged for using the Web. He knew that revenues would have to be generated another way.

He is a smart man (who today is a professor at MIT and the University of Southampton in England). He challenged the status quo and changed our world. The kicker, he’s only 58 years old.