Happy birthday world wide web: Society is adopting technology at an increasingly fast pace

On this date in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist working at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory, wrote a memo to his boss modestly entitled “Information Management: A Proposal”. Mr Berners-Lee proposed to develop a way to share information over a computer network.

“A ‘web’ of notes with links (like references) between them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system,” he wrote. The rest is history. It took only seven years from the first web pages in 1991 for the web to be used by a quarter of the American population.

That compares with 46 years for electricity, 35 years for the phone and 26 years for television. “Vague, but exciting”, wrote Mr Berners-Lee’s supervisor at the top of his CERN memo (a diagram from which appears under the chart). The web, just 25 years old, is still at the start of its life.

Diagram appearing on the front page of the 1989 memo.