March 12th is the 30th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal for universal connectivity that became the World Wide Web.  His proposal was called “Information Management: A Proposal” – an incredibly simple title for a concept that changed the world. 

At SCW, we want to celebrate this anniversary and recognize its importance in today’s world.  CERN, the world’s largest physics laboratory and the place where Mr. Berners-Lee worked and presented his proposal, is celebrating the anniversary with an event on the morning of March 12th in partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and with the World Wide Web Foundation.  This Web@30 anniversary event will be webcast live with Mr. Berners-Lee as the featured speaker.  Click here for more information about the webcast. 

Tim Berners Lee

Tim Berners-Lee

In recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Web, Ian Clarke, vice president, global submarine systems, Ciena, commented, “When I look back to 1989, when the World Wide Web was first created and look at other ‘firsts’ of this era, I’m struck by two significant milestones: the first SMS text message sent in 1992 and Amazon’s creation in 1994. The World Wide Web has had a profound effect on society as we know it today. Equally, without our network of undersea communication, there would be no World Wide Web, mobile communication would be very limited to national networks and Amazon might still be a retailer of books – instead of one of the data centers and global ecommerce companies.”

Brian Lavallée, senior director, portfolio marketing, Ciena, added, “Submarine cables carry over 99 percent of all intercontinental communications and, together, are the unheralded backbone deployed in the harshest environment on earth – the bottom of the world’s oceans. No other communications network, satellites included, can reliably and cost-effectively scale to support the voracious connectivity demand growth that continues unabated. Without submarine cables, which are about the size of a common garden hose, there simply is no World Wide Web. Out of sight and out of mind, submarine cables are used by internet users, man and machine, every single day. These cables are critical infrastructure and will continue to be the jugular veins of intercontinental connectivity for decades to come.”

Of course, from a submarine cable perspective, it is impossible to separate the history of submarine cables from the history of the World Wide Web.  The first transatlantic fiber optic cable, TAT-8, had entered service only three months before Mr. Berners-Lee’s proposal.  By 1991, when his vision of universal connectivity was becoming the World Wide Web, transoceanic fiber optic cables were at the early stages of their inexorable reach across the globe.  There were some bumps in the road; like in 2002 when demand for the services that the Web could provide at the time did not seem to be materializing and the submarine cable market crashed. 

But where there were once stories in major newspapers about how nobody would ever really buy things online and there would never be a significant need for submarine cables, those same newspapers (now fully integrated online and relentlessly pushing their online subscriptions) are writing about how important submarine cables are in today’s world.  Click here to view a very good article from the New York Times from March 10th on this subject, which includes, thanks to Mr. Berners-Lee, a great animation of the submarine cable network’s global reach over time that you will never see in the paper edition.