It took another spark to light the Internet rocket. At about the same time the Internet opened up for business, some physicists at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, released an authoring language and distribution system they developed for creating and sharing multimedia-enabled, integrated electronic documents over the Internet. And so was born Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), browser software, and the Web. No longer did authors have to distribute their work as fragmented collections of pictures, sounds, and text. HTML unified those elements. Moreover, the Web’s systems enabled hypertext linking, whereby documents automatically reference other documents located anywhere around the world: less rummaging, more productive time online.
Lift-off happened when some bright students and faculty at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign wrote a web browser called Mosaic. Although designed primarily for viewing HTML documents, the software also had built-in tools to access the much more prolific resources on the Internet, such as FTP archives of software and Gopher-organized collections of documents.
With versions based on easy-to-use GUIs familiar to most computer owners, Mosaic became an instant success. It, like most Internet software, was available on the Net for free. Millions of users snatched up copies and began surfing the Internet for “cool web pages.”