Tim Berners-Lee, Cambridge-based inventor of the World Wide Web, is this year’s winner of the most exalted honor in computing, the Association of Computer Machinery’s Turing Prize.
Berners-Lee, a native of London, began developing the core technologies of the Web in the late 1980s, while working as a software engineer at CERN, an experimental physics lab in Switzerland. He wanted devise a simple way for CERN’s scientists to share digital data with one another. So Berners-Lee invented HTML, a language for building Web pages; the URL, a handy way of attaching a network address to each page, and HTTP, a method to allow users to easily move from page to page.
These inventions made it easy to display vast amounts of data in a visually attractive format, and make it accessible instantly, almost anywhere in the world. Today, 26 years after the launch of the first public Web page, the World Wide Web is perhaps the world’s most important information medium, used by billions every day.
Today, Berners-Lee is director of the World Wide Web Consortium, an international organization that develops technical standards to further enhance the capabilities of the Web.
“The first-ever World Wide Web site went online in 1991,” the association’s president, Vicki Hanson, said. “Although this doesn’t seem that long ago, it is hard to imagine the world before Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention.”
Berners-Lee said he was “humbled to be connected to Alan Turing,” the award’s namesake. Turing was a British scientist who laid the theoretical foundations of modern computing. “He threw down the gauntlet to all who programmed them,” said Berners-Lee, “what was possible with computers is limited only by our imaginations.”
The award comes with $1 million in prize money, funded by Alphabet Inc., parent company of the search service Google.Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.