A QUARTER of a century ago the world of information gathering was transformed when Sir Tim Berners-Lee devised a way of transmitting data from one computer to another.

STEF LACH looks at how the web has changed our lives.

FEW things dominate our daily lives quite like the world wide web.

Our computers are pretty much useless without access to it and our smartphones keep us connected even when our laptop or PC is not to hand.

Even modern televisions link to the web, allowing us to stream programmes to watch at our leisure.

How different our lives would be without the web.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the world wide web - a quarter of a century since it was first proposed in 1989 by British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

It should be explained that the web is not the internet - they are two different things.

The internet is a massive network, connecting millions of computers together globally.

Any computer can communicate with any other computer as long as they are both connected to the internet.

The web is a means of accessing information over the internet, using a computer language called HTTP.

When Sir Tim first submitted his idea, while working at Swiss physics laboratory, Cern, the response from his boss was: "Vague, but exciting."

He went on to develop an invention that has revolutionised the lives of billions, with two out of five people in the world now connected online.

Based on his earlier programme for storing information called Enquire, the system was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a web of documents.

Physicist Sir Tim originally developed the web to meet the demand for information-sharing between scientists around the world.

Other information retrieval systems which used the internet were available at the time, but the web's simplicity, along with the fact that the technology was made royalty-free in 1993, led to its rapid adoption and development.

By late 1993, there were more than 500 known web servers, and the world wide web accounted for 1% of internet traffic.

Two decades later, there are an estimated 630m websites online.

Recent Government statistics show that last year 36m adults (73%) in Britain accessed the internet every day, with 21m households (83%) having internet access in 2013.

In 2009 Sir Tim founded the World Wide Web Foundation, which has a mission statement to "establish the open web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely".

He has also backed whistleblowers such as former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden, who use the internet to "protect society's interests".

Last year Sir Tim was jointly awarded the inaugural £1m Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering along with fellow internet pioneers Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf, Marc Andreessen and Louis Pouzin.

Whether you use it to book cheap holidays or as a way to waste a few hours watching cute kitten videos, there's no denying that few things have changed the world quite like the invention of the world wide web.


Personal view

EVENING Times Digital Innovation Manager GRANT GIBSON gives a personal view on what the web means to him.

My personal internet history started in 1994 just after the release of Mosaic, the first web browser that was able to display images and text.

It seems unthinkable now, but for the first five years of its existence, Tim Berners-Lee's baby was text-based - more like Teletext than the web we're used to today.

With nothing more than a dial-up connection and a battered old PC, I uploaded my first web site which was, from memory, a confused tribute to New York chef Gene Futterman and indie rock group Stereolab.

Within weeks I got a call from a London-based record company asking me to build a site for their artists, and out of nothing a career was started.

It's the truly democratic nature of the web that excites me the most.

Not just democracy in the political sense, but in the sense that anyone with a good idea can get noticed.

Upload a video to YouTube and it can rack up tens of thousands of views overnight - or it may get none.

In the past few years I've been contacted by a cattle farmer in Jamaica, a publisher in New York, a final year student in Tanzania and the Windows team at Microsoft, all keen to partner on interesting projects thanks to links they found to me on the web.

The web has already fundamentally changed the world around us - how we shop, how we learn, how we find love and even how we chat with our friends.

But I believe we're just at the beginning.

As methods to reliably verify - and hide - our online identities mature, we'll see everything from democracy to the environment completely transformed.

The implications can't be predicted and can scarcely be imagined by even the most forward-thinkers.

In Japan, for example, the government is already battling the country's "celibacy syndrome", created by young people with so many gadgets and distractions that they simply can't be bothered to have sex.

Archimedes famously said: "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I'll move the world."

Thanks to the web, all you need now is an idea and a web browser and you can change the world from your armchair.