Re: Time 100: TimBL named one of 20 scientists of the century

Roy T. Fielding (
Tue, 30 Mar 1999 17:46:08 -0800

>Either way, Chomsky is the seventh most cited writer in the humanities and
>the only living person in the top ten. He is beaten only by Marx, Lenin,
>Shakespeare, the Bible, Aristotle, Plato and Freud.

I think that has more to do with the controversial aspects of making
baseless claims than any particular contribution to the humanities.
Seeing him speak at UCI was a revelation on how a professor can become
so filled with his own reputation that he no longer feels compelled
to defend his theories with actual reasoned thought.

>Seems strange to me that he didn't make the Time top 100.

I think the list was based on their impact on real people, not on
intellectual discourse. Engelbart would have been my pick waaaay
before TimBL, but at least they did better than previous issues that
attributed the Web to Andreessen.

TimBL invented HTML/1.0 (kinda based on SGML), Universal Document
Identifiers (a particular syntax translation of document segment
addresses in Augment), and HTTP/0.9 (barely more than a raw TCP connect),
pretty much on his own. But to say that he invented the Web, as we know
it today, on his lonesome would be to ignore the differences between
HTML/1.0 and HTML/2.0 (mostly Dan Connolly's work) and HTML/3.2
(mostly Dave Raggett's and Lou Montulli's work), the differences
between then initial UDI specification and RFC 2396 (a combination of
TimBL's, my own, and Larry Masinter's work), and the differences between
HTTP/0.9 (a one-page spec) and HTTP/1.0 (mostly the work of people on
www-talk, listed in the Ack section of RFC 1945, with myself and Henrik
defining all the details), and HTTP/1.1 (mostly my work, but with the
details defined by at least eight people not including TimBL).

The most important thing that TimBL did, and the main reason I am happy
to see him on the list (even though I think Engelbart is more deserving),
was to make the WWW project a collaborative software development effort.
WWW would have died an early death were it not for the collaboration with
CERN people (TimBL, Robert Cailliau, Jean-Francois Groff, Phil Hallam-Baker,
Ari Luotonen, Henrik Frystyk Nielsen) and NCSA people (Rob McCool, Eric Bina,
Marc Andreessen, Dan LaLiberte, Eric Sink, ...) and about 40 other serious
developers around the world (Lou Montulli, Bill Perry, Tony Sanders,
Kevin Hughes, Marc VanHeyningen, Dan Connolly, Dave Raggett, Martijn Koster,
Chuck Shotton, John Franks, Robert Thau, Rob Hartill, myself, and a bunch
of others who are harder to remember because I didn't save their mail).
I got involved because the people were interesting and the debate was
real and informed, not because I had any particular vision for the WWW.
That came later. It was that environment that truly invented the Web.

...Roy T. Fielding
Department of Information & Computer Science (
University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3425 fax:+1(949)824-1715