Apple Invented The Web As We Know It

Lots of folks thind that Al Gore invented the Internet – they are wrong! It was Apple Computer!

OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but it is true that Apple, people working for Steve Jobs at both Apple and NeXT are directly responsible for the web as we know it. And I’ll tackle Al’s influence here as well.

Now before you go all spamieval on my ass, let me take a few moments to illustrate some facts before I go on to my conclusion.

The essence of everything: Hypertext
Hypertext is a notion that has been around since 1962, when Ted Nelson wrote about “Non-Sequential Writing” in his book “Literary Machines.” Later, Doug Englebart described what he called “Hyper Documents” at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in 1968. The next big thing (and most profound change) came about when Ted Nelson created a project he called “Xanadu” which was about the distributed, hypertext-like storage of copywritten materials. Between the two of these primary researchers, the notion of human navigated documents interlinked by citation and reference became the future-tech du jour. Not a lot happened for quite a while, as people talked about this new notion and worked through a variety of projects – but in many ways, technology and the public in general were not ready for this new way of thinking/operating.

The first sea-change: HyperCard
In 1987, Bill Atkinson, working for Apple, released a little program he called “HyperCard” based on the hyper-text notions of Nelson and Englebart. The significant advances that lead to this were primarily the Graphical User Interface (the original Macintosh interface) and the speed of computers, which allowed for scripted languages rather than just compiled languages. Atkinson had been working on it since 1985 and it was a brilliant confluence of the Macintosh’s trademark ease of use and the awesome potential of Hypertext. But the world was not yet ready for Apple and Atkinson’s next prescient move: they released it for free with every new Macintosh. Unfortunately, this was an unheard of precedent and completely marginalized the HyperCard program and its progeny HyperTalk. Under the visionless eyes of utterly gray-and-IBM Amelio and Scully, the “Hyper” stuff that Apple was developing became immensely popular with Mac users and devotees, but suffered a cruel heat-death with the company and corporate users.

Sidenote about HyperTalk
The HyperCard legacy lived on as HyperTalk evolved into a framework for scripting actions inside of Mac applications, later evolving into AppleScript which is part of the automation capabilities and XCode development suite in OS-X to this day. Additionally, HyperTalk is credited as the inspirational basis for NeXT’s Interface Builder application in 1988, Microsoft’s Visual Basic in 1991 and JavaScript by Netscape in 1995. Javascript is, arguably, responsible for “Web 2.0” and the coming of the next major evolution of browsers.

Jobs, NeXT and Tim Berners-Lee
By 1987 Steve Jobs had exited Apple was on to bigger and better things. He founded NeXT, which was a Unix-based operating system and computer that was far and away the most powerful personal system available at that time. Unfortunately, if was not a commercial success even as it was raved on by scientists and researchers. In fact, NeXT’s NeXTSTEP operating system was the basis for the OS-X that we know and love today. Almost every cool thing that we see on the Mac today was at one time a research project or experiment on the NeXT platform. But far and away the most important thing that came from NeXT was built by a young gentleman working at CERN named Tim Berners-Lee. Taking advantage of the advanced rapid development tools of the NeXT platform, the inspiration of HyperCard and the most important thing, his academic connection to the then-infantile “Internet” – he created a little application that changed the world and called it “WorldWideWeb.” This application was first released into the wild in 1990 and it defined a new form of communications protocol called HTTP or Hyper Text Transmission Protocol. It was a way for information to be interlinked in a hypertext way between interconnected servers using their “Domain Name” or address. Occupying a niche in higher education and science is what got the NeXT computer into Tim’s hands – and CERN’s connection to the Internet was the piece he was looking for.

The World’s First Browser
At the same time, Pei-Yuan Wei at UC Berkeley was working on another system called “Viola” which was an attempt to bring the functionality of HyperCard to the XWindows (Unix) environment. Wei intended to interconnect in a way that was more akin to the HyperDocuments architecture by Englebart, but after seeing HTTP by Berners-Lee he adapted it to his XWindows app and created the worlds first modern browser, NCSA Mosaic. Wei was working under an initiative that was authored and advocated by then-Senator Al Gore – the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991 – which funded the development of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative – which included the Mosiac Web Browser.

Connecting the Dots
Steve Jobs built on the Xerox-PARC research of a GUI and mouse and made it pop-technology. One of his employees, Bill Atkinson took the research of Ted Nelson and Doug Englebart and created HyperCard, which begat Hypertalk, which begat Javascript. Steve Jobs, free of the then-corporate-land-locked Apple formed NeXT and created the most powerful personal computer of the day – as well as the most sophisticated user interface the world had ever seen (So much so, that it was unthinkably complicated for the unwashed masses). Tim Berners-Lee, working on this brilliant new platform, used it to synthesize the notions of HyperText with the Internet. Pei-Yuan Wei used XWindows to mimic Hypercard, then in combination with Berners-Lee’s work created the genesis of browsers as we know them today.

How Al Gore Invented The Internet
Wei’s work was funded by Al Gore, who commented about it once on a radio show, “I was proud to be a part of the Congress that funded the creation of the Internet as we know it today.” This quote was extended and mutated by a small conservative talk radio show into “I invented the Internet,” was picked up by API, spread around the rest of the right wing noise machine and Poof! We have a lie that has continued to stand even today.

Could someone else have followed this path and invented the web as we know it today? Of course! It’s also arguable that Louis Pasteur might not have figured out that boiling milk killed the viruses and other harmful creatures that lived in it – but the fact is, he did – and the line I just described created the Internet as we know it today. Did they build it from research gathered by others? Of course! Everything we know today has been built by standing on the shoulders of other great men. But again, the line I just described shows the brilliant minds that synthesized the then-existing data into a new and exciting frontier… and the capability for you to read this document in the first place.

So all you Apple-haters go ahead – hate and malign all you want. But while you’re doing so on your blogs, forums, wikis, websites and such – remember that the technology was brought to you by way of the very company that you are slamming.

Alright: Open season on Perk! Give it your best.


  1. braindonkey says:

    true true. All true. However, you leave out 1 very important fact.

    Windows rules! :drama:

    actually the whole thing of Al Gore has always made me laugh. It is probably fairly true to say that, to some extent, the internet (specifically the web) moving into the public arena from the nerd-o-sphere was due in part to Al Gore greasing the wheels of change. Sure there were lots of other factors as well, but I think it is fair to say that he helped to bring the internet into its teenage years, in some small, but important way.

    I actually think that the most important person in bringing the internet forth to the public, which is what really matters, was Marc Andreesen. By creating NCSA Mosaic, that was the piece of software that resulted in the collective “click” for anyone who saw it. Before that, it was a concretion of turds that kinda did the web. With NCSA Mosaic, the internet was capable of being pretty (relatively speaking) and easy to use.

  2. perkiset says:

    You are correct and my post does not outline that – although Wei was instrumental in the first browser, Marc Andreeson was the lead on the project while at the Univ Illnois at Urbana-Champaign until his graduation in ’93 – when he went on to found Mosiac Communications, which became Netscape.

    And I agree – Mosaic was inventive and marvelous… but it was Netscape that really changed the landscape so to speak ;)

  3. Dink says:

    WooHoo. Hot shit here. I remember Xanadu like it was, well a long time ago.

    I also remember the very first GUI too. It was on an Apple. I couldn’t believe it. Our shop had a majestic IBM 360. Top of the line workhorse, but no screens anywhere.

    There were rumors at the local uni that some secret deal was happening. The called Arpanet or some other Buck Rogers name. roflmao:

    Good post Perk. I’ve never owned an Apple, but the time is rapidly approaching. Although the ‘parallels’ you suggested a while back may slow the inevitable.

    >>Off topic. I love your bookmarks thingy and the cute and lovable smilies.
    :popcorn: :D

  4. unitedcrown says:

    You must get this a lot. But you look a bit like Al Gore. ;) Any association to him?

  5. perkiset says:


    I use to get that all the time. Once, when PinkHat and I were flying back and forth to our call center all the time ( we always sat up front in 1st, and we really looked like we were comfortable with it all ) an old couple were walking by and the old man looked at me and just sort of pointed with a surprised look on his face. PinkHat, already in pretty good shape (we would often drink a plane out of JD) just grabbed the old woman’s sleeve, tugged and said, “He is.”

    The plane was awash with rumor and the captain actually had to come on mid-flight and say that no, Al Gore was not on the plane. We laughed from Virginia to Dallas man.

  6. unitedcrown says:

    lmao very funny. Milk it for what it’s worth. lol

  7. fantomaster says:

    In terms of actually making the Web accessible, in my case (and I wasn’t alone on this one) it was actually OS/2 that got me connected. I remember watching a demonstration of it at a fairly big computer fair in Germany – what really got me hooked was seeing the guy installing the OS and starting to surf even before the job had been finalized.
    Ok, so OS/2 finally flunked in many respects, but having to switch all that Net functionality to Win 3.1 at the time really sucked.
    Anyway, nice overview!

  8. perkiset says:

    Thanks Fanto, and you’re 100% correct: OS/2 absolutely rocked. It was WAY ahead of its time… but suffered from techno-racism – if it warn’t Microsoft, it war shit. So folks that needed to write drives stayed away in droves ergo, from a coprorate perspective, it just never took off like it really should have. But again, it was SO far ahead of MS at the time it wasn’t even funny.

  9. cruisemates says:

    Isn’t it a bit limiting to discuss the internet only in terms of brwosers and scripting. Have your forgotten the days when “Internet Access” came with different software for IRC, usenet, FTP, pop, telnet, QModem, and “maybe” some kind of primtive “browser” so you could go to sites like

    And this was in 1994. Arpanet was built by the DOD and only eventually splitoff when so many university “radicals” suddenly had access to it.

    I remember hypercard – even though I am not a programmer today, I actually could write pretty good hypercard scripts, and basic for tha matter.

    As I recall, hypercard’s graphics ability was limited to being able to embed an Apple icon (for a program) and make it move around. There wa no way to embed “pictures” – and for sound it played Macintosh “boings” and “beeps” but you could actrually make it play tunes with pitch & duration setting s for each instance. “boing” made for great songs that sounds like a Jew’s Harp. (that what they call them, don’t blame me).

  10. Lupus says:

    Personally I wonder why Al Gore didn’t say “I stole the money from you to fund the development of the internet”. According to your quote he makes it sound like he used hos own money. Let us not forget that the internet was created by the use of force and slave labor.

  11. perkiset says:

    @Cruisemates: Of course you’re correct, there are lots of other, very important applications that help spin the web. But my point was more the “as we know it” portion of the article. IME, most normal folks (simple users) think of their browser as the “Internet” rather than an application riding on it. EMail is often not even understood as another app that rides the Internet – it’s “EMail.” FTP, POP3 Usenet, telnet – these apps and protocols are hugely meaningful and vital to the likes of us, but not to the general public. So the line I’m drawing is simply direct involvement Apple had with The Internet As We Know It because pop culture and the unwashed masses have, in many ways, redefined what As We Know It means.

    @Lupus: roflmao: You’re starting to sound like a one-note song man. You do realize, of course, the hypocrisy of USING the tool called the Internet to throw stones at the people that created it for you… I have a very simple question for you. If EVERYTHING in your book is “taken by force and slave labor” then how does anything ever get done? Are you suggesting that something as broad and ubiquitous as the Internet be put together by a concerned group of folks that self-fund it because they find it interesting, much like the Libertarian argument for toll roads constructed by the people that need to travel that path?

  12. George says:

    I think the writer is right about hypertext, at least in an electronic environment. However, it should be noted that legal writing for cases – for centuries – developed a similar approach, by embedding, within the text, a reference to a quote or a case that related to the discussion. That way, a writer could cite a prior decision, and the reader could quickly find the prior decision and determine if the quote, and the context, were correct. My view is that this is the first form of “hypertext” that was widely used.

  13. G-Dub says:

    Xanadu… Isn’t that what you find at the bottom of a Xana Bird’s cage?

  14. perkiset says:

    @ George: 100% correct – the point here was the adaptation of hypertext rather than the development of it. If you subscribe to the “Nothing is new under the sun” philosphy (I do) then virtually everything is built on the foundation of others’ work and this is just another example of brilliant synthesis, rather than original thought.

    LOL @ G-Dub

  15. Lupus says:

    Why do you republicrats worship at the altar of government so much. You think that if somone doesn’t put a gun in your face and make you do something that it will never get done. You think that if the fedgov didn’t dup money into tcp/ip development that we’d never get a world wide computer network?


    Stop waving the gun in my face, and I’ll stop complaining about it.

  16. perkiset says:

    No Lupus – I’m not that way and it sounds like you’re not either. But the fact of the matter is that if there weren’t Universities connected to the military and the government via the Arpanet we wouldn’t have what we do today.

    I suppose anyone can argue that “things would have occurred naturally” and there’s no reason to pay taxes to make them happen, but in fact they just don’t seem to. If the private sector, for example, is SO MUCH BETTER than the government, then why has it taken so long for them to get even to a tiny fraction of where the NASA space programs have? If corporate American interests are better for the environment in the long run (as they would have us believe) then why is it that the government has had to step in at all for our public safety?

    Bear in mind that I am NOT saying that the government has done a perfect job – not even by remote imagination. But at the very least it has done SOME job, where corporate America unrestrained has dumped mercury, benzine and lead in our drinking water. And if every American has to finght individually against corporations for health, indivual Americans lose. Period.

    So how, given those thoughts, to do you reconcile the notions (which to a great degree I agree with) of personal liberty and non-corporatism against health and society?

  17. Lupus says:

    Oh, this is a great post as well! Let’s boil this one down too.
    There are a couple of short answers. A because of the government. No profit in it. The market wasn’t demanding it.
    Now the long answers. Let’s take the development of the internet. The telecommunications industry is highly regulated. To do basically anything from install phone lines, to run a radio station you as a business owner or technology developer has to come up with millions of dollars to wade through government red tape. To get approvals, to get licenses. It will cost you millions just to run a legal department to keep up with the constant development and deployment of new laws and regulations. So, if I come up with a brilliant idea the government (with the lobby of large corporations) have put up so many barriers and have made it cost so much that chances are I’ll never be able to get the idea to market cause I just can not afford to wade through the bureaucracy. Try to start a radio station, you have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to beg the FCC to put up a radio station. Then if you are denied you won’t even get it back at all. This makes it impossible for new small radio stations to develop. Big corporations like Cumulus Broadcasting support and lobby for regulations and laws like this because it makes it far more difficult for new competitors to develop.
    The environment. I blame this also on the government and corporatism. To understand this you have to understand what a corporation is. A corporation is not AT&T. A corporation is not Exxon. A corporation is a piece of paper that is filed in some government office somewhere. This piece of paper allows the individuals who operate the business to be exempt from liability for things the corporation does. This sweetheart deal the corporations have will the government enable them to dump huge amount of toxic waste around everywhere and then not be accountable for it at all. I say, dissolve the idea of corporations. Hold people personally liable for things their business do. Then, if somebody destroys your environment you can sue them for damages. Since damages would affect the bottom line you are now giving the corporations incentive to act responsibly. Rather than the system they have now which encourages them to manipulate the government into doing what they want.
    The space program is the same story. Government regulation, laws and liability all make space travel so expensive that it just isn’t any profit it in. You have to wade through massive red tape. You need a 100 person legal department just to make sure you are not breaking any laws. It just doesn’t make any sense to get involved. Not to mention, the market really isn’t demanding space travel.
    Let’s contract these last 3 things, to the development of the internet since say 1990. Let’s put the actually TCP/IP development behind us, but lets look at the expansion of web content. In 17 years the web has developed into a cornerstone of society. More people are making money from it than I can count. Little people are becoming successful business persons. People are making money and doing good things. Why? Because the government has kept out of it! It is cheap to get involved. There aren’t a lot of laws and regulations to hold you back. It is the freest and most successful market in the world right now. Compare this to how it works in 10 years when the government starts clamping down, taxing and regulating things. You will see the web taken over by large multi-national corporations and the small time inventor, the small time innovators will all disappear waiting for the next opportunity for freedom to shine through.

  18. vsloathe says:

    Well, they’ll never take away my HAM radio.

  19. perkiset says:

    You do not understand corporations or how to run a business. Do you actually have a business where you have to pay more than 10 people salaries? If not, you have no clue. Your bombastic and extremist postures like “It’ll cost millions in legal fees” and “If I come up with a brilliant idea the government will put up so many barriers” proves this. Additionally, your thoughts like “Dissolve the notion of corporations” make it clear that you are the worst sort of person to make this argument:

    You are a welfare mother.

    What do I mean by that? I mean that freedom is neither free or easy my friend. You want to dissolve everything else because you simply do not want to take the time to learn how to do it. You want all the benefits this country has to offer and that business can do for you, so long as no one has any advantage on you and you don’t have to learn anything. Baloney argument. You want the worst handout of all: you want the government to make it EASY for you to compete with anyone. You want the government to get out of your way so that you can do it the way that you want to do it, rather than taking a bit of time and seeing how the world works and adapting. Since you don’t seem capable of rising up, you want the government to create a level playing field for you by bringing everything else down.

    The “Government” that you so easily besmirch has nothing to do with your agony. The government is simply all the people that you hated in high school, have been given more power and projection. They are people that do not impose laws on themselves… they are people that will impose laws on YOU to make it easier for THEM to do what they want to do. This is the way of the world since the dawn of time: people given power will do whatever they can to make their life more easy… even if that means making yours harder. The answer is not to scream at the wind, but to figure out how they do what they do and get your piece as well: Welcome to the notion of Capitalism and America. Is it fair? Of course not… but you will not find that the notion of “fair” plays anywhere beyond sports.

    BTW – you quote how many people are making so much money via the Internet and at the same time it’s because government stays out of it – this is the most backwards thing I have seen in a long time – first, you claim in a prior piece that the Internet should NOT have been developed by the government because private industry could have done better (if it could have, it would have. It didn’t and we now have what we have). And now you point out the immense amount of money being generated by this device and being put into the hands of average Joes all over our country and in fact the world. “I want what we’ve already gotten, but I don’t want to have to pay for any more.” Silliness. You really think that the largest benefit of the space program has been to put a man on the moon? You are both naive and disconnected if you cannot see the profound benefits that people, health, industry and our country in general has made because of this research.

    In fact, the private industry that you so highly value has no conscience, no motivation AT ALL to protect us as people or develop anything at all for the common good. It is motivated purely by profit for its shareholders… how you can confuse that as some great good and the government as some horrible bad is beyond me, except that it is clear you’ve never been responsible for a large business or shareholders.

    You’re just like every other Libertarian in this regard: You enjoy the fact that you can write, read, speak, interpret, had a government-paid job that taught you lots of great skills, but you DON’T WANT TO PAY FOR ANYONE ELSE to get the same.

    Self centered hypocrisy, nothing else.