I’m not a big fan of acronyms in general but I like the word WWILF: What Was I Looking For. It’s such a webby word.
Interestingly, there’s no Wikipedia entry for wwilfing. Maybe it should just redirect to the page about the World Wide Web.
I’ve found the wwilfing motherlode for markup nerds like me: The Early History of HTML. It’s a short document, but each link will send you down a rabbit hole of geek history.
As an aside, the world’s first ever web site went live exactly nineteen years ago on August 6th, 1991. I know that because the front page of Wikipedia had it listed under “On this day…” I was wwilfing again.
Back to that document about the early history of HTML… it’s a fascinating look at the origins of many of the elements that we use to build web pages today. I knew that HTML was based on SGML but I always thought that Sir Tim came up with the elements in HTML Tags himself. It turns out that many of the elements come directly from an existing flavour of SGML already in use at CERN called GMLguide.
That’s a textbook example of the design principles that are now codified for HTML5:
- support existing content,
- do not reinvent the wheel,
- pave the cowpaths and
- evolution, not revolution.
I would in fact prefer, instead of <H1>, <H2> etc for headings [those come from the AAP DTD] to have a nestable <SECTION>..</SECTION> element, and a generic <H>..</H> which at any level within the sections would produce the required level of heading.
If you’re as fascinated as I am by the history of the web, you’ll enjoy re-reading the original proposal by Tim Berners-Lee for a global hypertext system, which is famously described as
vague but exciting. I’m struck by the relevance of the opening problem statement,
Losing Information at CERN:
The problems of information loss may be particularly acute at CERN, but in this case (as in certain others), CERN is a model in miniature of the rest of world in a few years time. CERN meets now some problems which the rest of the world will have to face soon.
The proposed solution—what would become the World Wide Web—is ingenious:
We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities.
The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards. The result should be sufficiently attractive to use that it the information contained would grow past a critical threshold, so that the usefulness of the scheme would in turn encourage its increased use.
The original problem still remains. The web hasn’t solved the problem of data loss but it has provided us with the means to quickly and easily share incredible amounts of data …but will that data simply disappear again?