Electronic Design

More On Berners-Lee, His Semantic Web

Berners-Lee divides his time between his role as director of the World Wide Web Consortium, overseeing recommendations for new technology standards, and as senior research scientist and holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT/CSAIL. He's personally engaged in the next phase of his vision for the Web, the Semantic Web, which will enable computers to extract meaning from globally distributed data by defining new languages for computers to exchange information.

Berners-Lee's vision for the future of the Web-a single web of meaning on everything and for everyone-is many electrons away from when he built his first computer using a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor, and an old television in college. A London native, Berners-Lee graduated with a degree in physics from Queen's College at Oxford University, England, in 1976.

He spent two years with Plessey Telecommunications Ltd. (Poole, Dorset, U.K.), a major U.K. telecom equipment manufacturer, working on distributed transaction systems, message relays, and bar-code technology. In 1978, Berners-Lee left Plessey to join D.G. Nash Ltd. (Ferndown, Dorset, U.K.), where he wrote among other things typesetting software for intelligent printers and a multitasking operating system.

A year-and-a-half spent as an independent consultant included a six-month stint (June-December 1980) as consultant software engineer at CERN. From 1981 until 1984, Berners-Lee worked at John Poole's Image Computer Systems Ltd., with technical design responsibility. Work here included real-time control firmware, graphics and communications software, and a generic macro language. By 1984, he took up a fellowship at CERN to work on distributed real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control. Among other things, he worked on FASTBUS system software and designed a heterogeneous remote procedure call system.

Throughout his career, Berners-Lee has remained steadfast in his core beliefs about the importance of open standards, interoperability for technologies, and universal access. He believes that his decision to make the Web an open system, rather than a proprietary technology, was necessary for it to be universally adopted.

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