TimBL's "Weaving the Web" reviewed by Salon

Sally Khudairi (sk@zotgroup.com)
Thu, 16 Sep 1999 02:43:07 -0400

OK, so our old friend Scott Kirsner bemoans that nothing is new ...

"Berners-Lee evinces little joy in writing about himself and his creative
process -- he's no Richard Feynman."

Ouch. Albeit true.

I never had the opportunity to review or copyedit any of the book's chapters
as originally intended, and have always doubted whether or not Fischetti's
"contributions" would capture that TimBL-ness which so few journalists have
had the chance to experience.

This is supposed to be Tim's only book on the Web's creation. Too bad his
"advisors" never had a clue on how to allow his creativity to emerge rather
than forcing chapter after chapter to be dictated on audiotape to meet some
ridiculous made up publication deadline.

Oh well. We tried. Time to put the paper bag down.


The modest inventor
"Weaving the Web" holds the promise of a facinating tell-all book
about how Tim Berners-Lee created the Web -- but it just
doesn't tell all that much.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Scott Kirsner

Sept. 15, 1999 | Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate
Destiny of the World Wide Web By Its Inventor
By Tim Berners-Lee, Mark Fischetti (Contributor)
Harper San Francisco, 224 pages

The inventor of the World Wide Web is not an easy man to get to

I discovered that when I went to interview Tim Berners-Lee in 1996
for the now-defunct WebMaster Magazine. After I'd lobbed my first
question, he was silent for a very long time.

Then, in his clipped British accent, he asked, "Have you looked at my
Frequently Asked Questions? You'd get a lot of points with me as a
journalist if you'd actually looked at them first."

His hope -- then and now -- was that a FAQ posted on the Web
would render interviews superfluous, insulating him from stupid,
redundant or intrusive questions. (One of the questions on his
current FAQ, for example, reads, "Can you tell me more about your
personal life?" The answer: "No, I can't.")

So why, then, write "Weaving the Web," Berners-Lee's account of
how and why he devised the most important new communications
medium since television? A central motivation, apparently, was to
forever alleviate his frustrations with journalists and members of the
public who insist on learning the particulars of the Web's origins.

"This book is written to address all the questions people ask me,
whether they meet me in a bookstore or ask me to make a keynote
speech at a conference," he explains on his site. "From 'What were
you thinking when you invented it?' through 'So what do you think of
it now?' to 'Where is this all going to take us?' this is the story."

Given that Berners-Lee isn't exactly a candidate for "The New
Hollywood Squares," I found myself wondering exactly who was
pestering him in bookstores and at conferences. A friend pointed
out, though, that Berners-Lee is the Ricky Martin of techie circles;
wherever he goes, he draws a crowd.

"Weaving the Web" seems to be directed at just that crowd. It's a
worthwhile if rather disappointing read for those interested in the
genesis story of the Web and Berners-Lee's hopes for its future
development. It offers more insight into Berners-Lee and the Web's
pre-commercial days than anything yet published. But Berners-Lee
evinces little joy in writing about himself and his creative process --
he's no Richard Feynman.

As a book, "Weaving the Web" is part history, part manifesto, part
autobiography. That unusual amalgam is hinted at by the book's
unwieldy subtitle: "The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the
World Wide Web By Its Inventor." The history section works best, as
Berners-Lee has never before told his version of the Web's birth and
tenuous toddlerhood. Later sections read like an operating handbook
for the World Wide Web Consortium and a highly detailed outline of
the new protocols and features Berners-Lee believes the Web needs.

This is not, in other words, stuff that a general business reader will
lap up.

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Sally Khudairi . ZOT Group . http://www.zotgroup.com/
+1.617.818.0177 <sk@zotgroup.com>