CONTACT: Michael Riordan, SLAC (650) 926-2620;
SLAC to host symposium celebrating 10th anniversary of first website in America
Many of the pioneers who created the World Wide Web and brought it from Europe to America will gather at the Department of Energy's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) Dec. 3-4 for a two-day symposium to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first website in America. Scientists, historians, programmers, web designers, futurists and others deeply involved in the development of this revolutionary new communications technology will address the topic of "The Once and Future Web."
"DOE is proud of the valuable contributions made by SLAC and Fermilab in establishing the World Wide Web as an important tool for scientific research and information exchange," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "They also contributed to the web's success as a new communications medium that benefits all Americans."
The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in late 1990, when he was working at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. With CERN colleague Robert Cailliau, he set up the first web server and developed most of the necessary software and protocols. They were seeking a platform-independent method of communicating over the Internet the blizzards of documents and data typically generated every day in high-energy physics.
After learning about their invention during a September 1991 visit to CERN, physicist Paul Kunz brought word of it back to SLAC and established the first web server in North America the following December. Fermilab physicists set up another web server just a few weeks later. SLAC's head librarian Louise Addis soon made the invaluable SPIRES-HEP (short for Stanford Public Information REtrieval SystemHigh Energy Physics) database accessible over the web; this quickly became the web's first "killer app." And SLAC physicist Tony Johnson developed a graphical browser named Midas (which later influenced Marc Andreessen's development of the popular Mosaic browser). With these key advances, web use surged in the high-energy physics community, and word of the powerful new communications technology began leaking out into the world at large.
Cailliau will be a featured speaker at the symposium, and Berners-Lee (now director of the World Wide Web Consortium) will address participants via video hookup from MIT. Kunz and Johnson also will speak during the first day's events; they will recount their part in making the web a truly worldwide phenomenon. David Richie and Liz Quigg of the Fermilab Computing Division will discuss the web's emergence from that laboratory's perspective.
The second day will be devoted to visions of the web's next 10 years. Among the participants will be Paul Saffo, noted futurist and director of the Institute for the Future; Stanford law Professor Lawrence Lessig, a pioneer of cyberlaw; Mark Pesce, chief architect of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language; and Tiffany Shlain, founder and director of the Webby Awards, given annually by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for the most innovative and outstanding website designs.
SLAC is a national laboratory for high-energy physics and synchrotron radiation research into the structure of matter. It is operated by Stanford University on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, which provides most of its funding. For more symposium information and online registration, go to www-project.slac.stanford.edu/webanniv/. For background information on the origins of the World Wide Web, consult www-user.slac.stanford.edu/bebo/PhysToday.htm.
By Michael Riordan