Robert Cailliau, CERN

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 12, 1993


The WorldWideWeb (WWW) project was started and driven by CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in an attempt to build a distributed hypermedia system. It has now become one of the most frequently used and fastest growing information retrieval systems on the Internet.

To access the Web, you run a browser program. The browser reads documents, and can fetch documents from other sources. Information providers set up hypermedia servers from which browsers can retrieve documents.

The browsers can, in addition, access files by FTP, NNTP (the Internet news protocol), Gopher, WAIS and an ever-increasing range of other methods. On top of these, if the server has search capabilities, the browsers will permit searches of documents and databases.

The documents that the browsers display are hypertext documents. Hypertext is text with pointers to other text. The browsers let you deal with the pointers in a transparent way -- select the pointer, and you are presented with the text that is pointed to.

Hypermedia is a superset of hypertext -- it is any medium with pointers to other media. This means that browsers might not display a text file, but might display images or sound or animations.


Formerly in programming language design and compiler construction, Robert has been interested in document production since 1975, when he designed and implemented a widely used document markup and formatting system. He ran CERN's Office Computing Systems group from 1987 to 1989. He is a long-time user of Hypercard, which he used to such diverse ends as writing trip reports, games, bookkeeping software, and budget preparation forms.

Robert was one of the first members of the WorldWideWeb project team at CERN. He presently works in the ECP group supervising WWW code development and support. He is firm believer in the potential of WWW and has been an active evangelist for it within the high energy physics community.


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