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How Steve Jobs Helped Build the World Wide Web

Daniel Bean
Editorial Assistant
June 9, 2014

Add the World Wide Web to the long list of modern marvels Steve Jobs can claim partial credit for. 

This, at least, according to a new story from the Web’s creator, Tim Berners-Lee. It goes like this: After Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, in 1985, the Apple visionary began another line of computers under the name NeXT. As you might expect, the user-centered machines were beautiful and well designed. Though NeXT had only limited consumer success, niche groups of professional users found its computers to be great for developing software and Web platforms. At least that’s what Berners-Lee, the man credited for creating the World Wide Web, said about his experience with NeXT in a recent interview.

As first reported by Business Insider, Berners-Lee explained in a roundtable talk at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that, once he was given the go-ahead to pursue the development of his World Wide Web project, he went out and got a “special computer” for the job.

"We bought a cool machine, the NeXT computer. NeXT was a machine made by Steve Jobs when he was kicked out of Apple. … It had a wonderful spirit to it, a really good developer’s environment. … When you opened it, you got a pre-recorded message from Steve that said, ‘Welcome to the NeXT. This is not about personal computing. It’s about ‘inter-personal’ computing.’ And I thought, ‘I can go along with that.’ It was perfect for designing the web."

Bernes-Lee’s NeXT computer: “The first Web server.” (Wikimedia Commons)

And so it was that Berners-Lee went on to begin connecting the dots of the Web, and the Internet as we know it today was born, all on the computer that Steve built.

And who would be surprised that Job might have had a hand in this? Even after Jobs’ untimely 2011 death, lore of his involvement in what has become common computer technology continues to spread.

To give one example: Nathaniel Borenstein, the inventor of the email attachment, recently explained that Jobs tried to hire him and his team once Jobs learned that Borenstein was trying to figure out a way to message pictures.

“A guy named Steve Jobs came by, and he saw the mail system, and he tried to hire my whole team on the spot. And nobody wanted to work for him,” Borenstein told The Telegraph.

The email pioneer went on to say, “I had a couple of dealings with him. I admired him greatly, but I would not have wanted to work for him. He was a totally domineering personality.”

Passionate and demanding? Yes. We’ve heard all these before. But these same traits are also likely a big part of the reason it’s become awfully hard to find a modern piece of personal computing that Steve Jobs hasn’t touched, even ones that don’t start with a lower-case ‘i.’