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The origins of our Webified age were hardly auspicious. Two decades ago, Tim Berners-Lee, a British software programmer at the CERN physics-research laboratory outside Geneva, was sketching out a global system for sharing information over the Internet. A March 1989 document that he drafted with the drab title "Information Management: A Proposal" had met with minimal internal interest. Berners-Lee’s group leader, Mike Sendall, was mildly intrigued and allowed him to keep tinkering on the project, calling it "vague, but exciting."

On Nov. 12, 1990, Berners-Lee tried his hand at a new proposal, now collaborating with the Belgian engineer Robert Cailliau. As Berners-Lee would later recount in his memoir, Weaving the Web, he decided some rebranding was in order, and he ran through a number of potential names for the project. One idea was Mesh, "but it sounded a little too much like mess." Mine of Information might seem "too egocentric" when treated as an acronym—MOI—French for "me." The Information Mine could be seen as "even more egocentric" based on its acronym: TIM, Berners-Lee’s first name.

"We had been trying to find a good name for the thing for a while," Cailliau said. "CERN’s experiments and projects were usually given names of Greek or Egyptian mythological figures, and I specifically did not want that because I wanted something for the future and different. I had looked at Nordic mythology but not found anything suitable."

Finally, Berners-Lee came up with a three-word name that suitably described the global reach of the system they were envisioning: World Wide Web. Cailliau recalls that Berners-Lee put forward the name "as a temporary measure." They agreed to use it for their revamped proposal for CERN management, as the proposal could not be delayed any further. "If the proposal was accepted," Cailliau said, "we would find a better name."

From The New York Times
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