Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who is credited with inventing the World Wide Web, has been named winner of the 50th anniversary A.M. Turing Award, given annually by the Association for Computing Machinery.
Named for Alan Turing, the British cryptanalyst and mathematician who helped crack Germany's coded communications during World War II, the A.M. Turing Award is often called the "Nobel Prize of Computing." The 2016 award to Berners-Lee comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google. Berners-Lee is expected to accept the award on June 24 during the ACM's annual awards banquet in San Francisco.
Berners-Lee currently works as a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is also founding director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the World Wide Web Foundation, and currently leads an MIT project called Solid that aims to help people regain control over their online personal data.
'Colossal Impact Is Obvious'
"In many ways, the colossal impact of the World Wide Web is obvious," ACM President Vicki L. Hanson said in a statement yesterday. "Many people, however, may not fully appreciate the underlying technical contributions that make the Web possible. Sir Tim Berners-Lee not only developed the key components, such as URIs and web browsers that allow us to use the Web, but offered a coherent vision of how each of these elements would work together as part of an integrated whole."
Berners-Lee was working for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1989 when he came up with the idea of the World Wide Web. He envisioned it as a "common information space" for communication built on top of the already existing global network of computers known as the Internet.
In describing the system to CERN, Berners-Lee proposed a number of the Web's key building blocks: the uniform resource identifier (URI); the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP); hypertext markup language (HTML); and the browser software that creates a visual and interactive way to access online content.
On Aug. 6, 1991, Berners-Lee and CERN launched the world's first Web site, a site that described what the World Wide Web is and provided links to the Web's software components, technical details and more. A copy of the original pages is now archived on the W3C's site.
'A Mix of Delights, Challenges, Opportunities'
"I'm pleased and humbled to receive this award," Berners-Lee said in a statement. "The 28 years since the Web's invention have brought a mix of delights, challenges and opportunities, and I remain committed to ensuring the Web delivers benefits to everyone, everywhere."
Since helping to create the Web as an open system that can, in theory, be used freely by anyone in the world, Berners-Lee has remained an outspoken advocate for free speech, personal privacy, transparency and fact-based information. In 2014, for example, he said online access should be considered a "basic human right."
And last month, he published an open letter through the World Wide Web Foundation calling for solutions to three online challenges: loss of control over personal data; the rapid and easy spread of misinformation on the Web; and the rise of opaque, sophisticated and targeted political advertising online.
"I imagined the Web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries," Berners-Lee wrote in the letter's introduction. "In many ways, the Web has lived up to this vision, though it has been a recurring battle to keep it open. But over the past 12 months, I've become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the Web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity."