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Founders of the web
By Dave Winer on Sunday, July 04, 2010 at 3:35 PM.

Mashable has a list of "fathers" of the web. permalink

Okay -- I would agree with some of the people on the list, and disagree with others.  permalink

Of course TBL is at the root of the tree. He's so central to the development of the web that you don't even have to say his name. But everyone has their inspiration, and before Tim Berners-Lee came Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson. The ideas embodied in TBL's hypertext are brilliant, but they did come from somewhere. So let's say that behind every founder are honorable people who deserve a mention. <img src="> permalink

A picture named ross.jpgSome people on Twitter feel I should be on the list, but that's nonsense. These lists aren't definitive, they just represent one person's point of view. The person who authored the Mashable list obviously felt that the technical side of the web was what mattered. The deeper and more esoteric stuff that formed foundations. They're also interested in fame. But things that may have been foundational that are not so famous might be on other people's lists. But it's Mashable's list and who belongs there is up to them. permalink

I thought of people I would put on a list of founders of the web (I wouldn't say fathers, that's sexist). And they had less to do with the technology and more to do with the practice. It's consistent with my belief that people who make the software and hardware are just making tools for the real revolutionaries, the users. permalink

Also, I think of the web more as a publishing environment, so I tend to gravitate toward people who have enabled that use of the web.  permalink

So here are some ideas.  permalink

You wouldn't think of Craig Newmark as a technical genius, his genius is in understanding what people wanted to do with the Internet, and what they could do, and never mind if it was part of the conventional wisdom (at the time) of what the web is for (making money) -- Craig went ahead and did what he wanted. I've compared him to Aunt Jemima, and I've scolded him publicly for being such a wuss, but it's been a long time since I underestimated the deliberately understated Newmark. permalink

Who else? Well Jimmy Wales. Wikipedia is another one of those things that wasn't on the tech industry's radar when it started, but look at where it is now. It has its flaws, but it is a monster, like Craig's creation.  permalink

How could you make a list of founders of the web without Evan Williams? For crying out loud. The guy proved it wasn't anything remotely like an accident the first time around. He never gives up. He's got two juggernauts under his belt now, Blogger and Twitter. There's obviously a model in his mind, he's paying attention, and letting his intuition guide him. And he has good intuition and is driven. And has been doing it for many years, through some very tough times. He's on my list for sure. permalink

If you're going to make a list of Web founders, it's got to include the Netscape thread. So definitely Marc Andreessen. Another guy who did it more than once, proving it wasn't an accident the first time around. Honorable mention to Brendan Eich, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross.  permalink

So obviously one thing I value are people who make long-term contributions, who didn't have one great idea. I'm not into one hit wonders. I know from experience that innovation isn't in the Aha moment, it's a lot of hard work and persistence and not-giving-up-easily that makes a true founder. permalink

If you're going to honor Netscape, you have to honor Microsoft too. I know this might not be popular, but they saved the web's ass when Netscape was crumbling. Folklore says that Microsoft deprived them of their air supply by giving their browser away for free. But come on -- Netscape was giving theirs away too. They did more than Microsoft to undermine themselves. And without MSIE/Mac, it's hard to imagine how the web would have gotten through that rough period. True, they should lose a lot of credit for letting malware get out of control. And the people who think "web standards" are what make the web work (I'm not one of them) curse Microsoft for IE6.  permalink

Not sure who from Microsoft to name as a founder of the web, but there would be someone from Microsoft on my list. permalink

More coming soon. I'll be thinking about this for a while... permalink

Ideas: Larry and Sergey, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Josh Marshall, Michael Arrington, Jeff Bezos, someone from the NY Times. permalink

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