Who REALLY Created the Internet?

As I was reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, I noticed that Vittoria Vetra claimed that Europe’s CERN created the Internet, not the U.S. Government as I was always led to believe. CERN supports (obviously) Vittoria Vetra’s claim that they are the creators—not the “arrogant Americans”.

So give me the Straight Dope. CERN or the U.S.?

(and, for the love of God, please, no horrible ATl Gore jokes)

People at CERN created the World Wide Web, not the Internet. The WWW is but one service that runs on the Internet, though it is perhaps the most visible.

No one person or group themselves created the internet, but the agency responsible for much of the technology and the network that would become the internet was the US Department of Defense’s ARPANET, which was set up in 1969 so that research computers in different locations across the country could communicate with each other.

Tim Berner-Lee and Robert Caillau at CERN usually get the credit for creating the World Wide Web in 1990, but the Internet is different from and predates the World Wide Web, even though the two terms are often used interchangeably now.

And the world wide web is not really a thing - it’s just a protocol for machines to use to communicate over the internet to deliver, navigate, and request content. While the WWW format/protocol obviously helped popularize the internet, it isn’t an underlying part of its invention. Other network services had been running on the internet for decades before the WWW protocols were created. The institutions most responsible for the development of the internet are the US military and the (US) National Science Foundation.

Well, everyone beat me but I didn’t spend 5 minutes correcting typos for nothing…

There are two different things here. The “internet” and the “World Wide Web”. The internet includes email, messaging, file transfer…everything, including the world wide web.

Tim Berners-Lee, at CERN, proposed hypertext and what became the “World Wide Web” and also created the first webserver and browser, but the web actually runs on top of the internet, which Al Gore invented (couldn’t resist).

So the US is responsible for it, but Berners-Lee expanded upon it?

So maybe instead of arrogant Americans…snooty Brits?

From the CERN Angels and Demons FAQ:

Did CERN scientists actually invent the Internet?

No. The Internet was originally based on work done by Louis Pouzin in France, taken up by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in the US in the 1970s. However, the Web was invented and developed entirely by Tim Berners-Lee and a small team at CERN during 1989-1994. The story of the Internet and the Web can be read in ‘How the Web was born’. Perhaps not as sexy as Angels and Demons, but everything in ‘How the Web was born’ was first-hand testimony and research.

Just to clarify, Berners-Lee proposed hypertext as the basis of the World Wide Web, but hypertext itself was developed in the '60s at Brown University (USA! USA!). And although the Brits came up with the first browser, the multimedia Web experience we all know and love really started with Mozilla. Guess which country that’s from. Go on, guess.

Yes, that joke was obligatory. As is the debunking at snopes.com:

Al Gore never claimed to have invented the internet.

The Netscape browser was written by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark, who founded Netscape Communications, sold it to AOL (who was bought by Time Warner (…who is now spinning off AOL)), and then made open source. The nonprofit corp Mozilla now runs Firefox, the descendent from the original Netscape browser (which borrowed its UI from Mozaic). IIRC. Whew. Actually it’s even more complicated than that:

Speaking of those two guys*, they wrote a letter defending Al Gore back in 2000: “Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the
Internet and to promote and support its development.”

*: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Vint Cerf, who is awesome.

Tim Berners-Lee didn’t come up with hypertext. Remember Gopher? And there were hypertext systems that predated the Internet itself.

He did define the HTTP 1.0 protocol and the early versions of HTML, though. And that’s what ended up mattering.

Snopes on Al Gore’s claim. It seems to have resulted from a clumsily worded but essentially true claim that he was among the first in Congress to recognize the value in tying computers together for research purposes, and took the initiative to fund what later became the beginnings of the Internet.

Of course the internet as we know it wouldn’t exist without the PC, for which we can thank IBM (and to some extent Apple). PCs couldn’t exist without cheap computer chips, whose fabrication plants cost a billion dollars or more. So the internet came about both due to big government (ARPANET in the US) and deep capital markets that could support Intel, AMD et al. Volunteerism also played a role: a lot of the code created in academic institutions has been freely shared. So we can thank big government, US and Asian capitalism, volunteerism, European theoreticians and globalization for the internet.

The internet is the physical networks and protocols that get data from one point to another. There are many types of data and different protocols used to send them - the “WWW” is no more the internet than e-mail or FTP (file transfer protocol) or bittorrent is - they’re just different methods for having certain types of data exchanged on the internet. The WWW is certainly a big part of what we consider the internet, but it’s just a particular way for clients and servers to interact on top of the internet. The internet would still exist had the WWW not be invented.

This animated videodoes a nice job of showing the history of the Internet. As it makes clear, in addition to DARPA, the French network Cyclades and the National Physical Laboratory of Britain had a major influence over the development of the early Internet.

…and fanatical devotion to the Pope!

I’ll come in again.:smiley:

I have gotten a couple of *emails *to the effect of, “Can you help me? I can’t connect to the Internet!” :smack:

ARPANET was developed so that in case of a nuclear war, American generals could still access porn.

Sir Berners-Lee’s crucial contribution that made HTML popular and successful is quite simple and revolutionary-the HTTP 1.0 protocol specified that parsing would continue if an error occurred. This was an extremely controversial idea to put it mildly. Without it the internet would not be the success that it is today. HTML is a subset of SGML. In SGML, an international standard defining methods of tagging text, the standard requires that the parser stop if an error occurs. There were standing room only crowds of very upset geeks at conferences in the early 90’s denouncing this terrible HTTP protocol. And it was dangerous. It is trivial to create an HTTP 1.0 compliant web page that will give opposite results depending on the browser. So a web page of safety instructions could result in disaster depending on whether the user upgraded her software recently or not. Hence the complaints. But without this idea, no one would have bothered to create the terrible web pages of the early days and learned enough to, after years of practice, create Amazon.com and others.

I’ll second the idea that it is complicated. If you really want the full story you might check out Inventing the Internet by Janet Abbate It is a bit dry, but very informative and gets high praise from historians of science and technology.