Sir Tim Berners-Lee Wins ACM 2016 Turing Award

By John Russell

April 5, 2017

It was probably only a matter of time but today the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) named Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford, the recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award. He was cited for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale.

“It’s a crowning achievement,” Berners-Lee said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I think the award is for the Web as a project, and the massive international collaborative spirit of all that have joined me to help.”

In announcing the 50th annual Turing Award, ACM noted: “Considered one of the most influential computing innovations in history, the World Wide Web is the primary tool used by billions of people every day to communicate, access information, engage in commerce, and perform many other important activities. The ACM Turing Award, often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize of Computing,’ carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.”

Not surprisingly news coverage of the award is widespread (a few links below). Berners-Lee’s seminal 1994 article – “The World-Wide Web” – was published in Communications of the ACM and co-authored with Robert Cailliau, Ari Luotonen, Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, and Arthur Secret, “elegantly describes the simple structure that still serves as the foundation of the Web today,” praised ACM.

Google Distinguished Scientist Andrei Broder said, “The Web has radically changed the way we share ideas and information and is a key factor for global economic growth and opportunity. The idea of a web of knowledge originated in a brilliant 1945 essay by Vannevar Bush. Over the next decades, several pieces of the puzzle came together: hypertext, the Internet, personal computing. But the explosive growth of the Web started when Tim Berners-Lee proposed a unified user interface to all types of information supported by a new transport protocol. This was a significant inflection point.”

Truly, it’s amazing how thoroughly the World Wide Web has insinuated itself into the fabric of society and how efforts to improve and extend it have helped drive computational technology. The ACM noted that to make his proposed information-sharing system work, Berners-Lee invented several integrated tools that would underpin the World Wide Web, including:

  • Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that would serve to allow any object (such as a document or image) on the Internet to be named, and thus identified
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that allows for the exchange, retrieval, or transfer of an object over the Internet
  • Web browser, a software application that retrieves and renders resources on the World Wide Web along with clickable links to other resources, and, in the original version, allowed users to modify webpages and make new links
  • Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that allows web browsers to translate documents or other resources and render them as multimedia webpages

Berners-Lee launched the world’s first website, http://info.cern.ch, on August 6, 1991.

He has received many awards and honors, including the ACM Software System Award in 1995. Berners-Lee was knighted in 2004 and received the Order of Merit in 2007, becoming one of only 24 living members entitled to hold the honor. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and has received honorary degrees from a number of universities around the world, including Manchester, Harvard, and Yale. TIME magazine included him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.

Links to other news coverage of the 2016 Turing Award:

Official ACM citation: http://awards.acm.org/award_winners/berners-lee_8087960

Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/04/04/inventor-of-the-web-wins-50th-annual-turing-award-including-1m-from-google/#3c6900247054

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/inventor-of-world-wide-web-wins-computings-nobel-prize/2017/04/04/76b3e6bc-1926-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?utm_term=.3bca2f62a6c2

ACM: http://awards.acm.org/about/2016-turing

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