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Berners-Lee: web address slashes were "a mistake"

Tim Berners-Lee

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 15 Oct 2009 at 09:07

Tim Berners-Lee has offered a tongue-in-cheek apology for the // which appear at the beginning of web addresses, describing them as pointless and unnecessary.

Berners-Lee is widely considered the father of the internet, but speaking at a technology symposium in Washington he admitted to a few regrets. "Really, if you think about it, it doesn’t need the //. I could have designed it not to have the //," he said. "Boy, now people on the radio are calling it 'backslash backslash'.

"People are having to use that finger so much. Look at all the paper and trees that could have been saved if people had not had to write or type out those slashes on paper over the years — not to mention the human labour and time spent typing those two keystrokes countless millions of times in browser address boxes," he said, before concluding.

"There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Sir Berners-Lee is director of the World Wide Web Consortium, charged with overseeing further development of the internet, and also spoke about the need to develop the "semantic" web - capable of discerning the meaning behind information, rather than just reading the information presented.

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User comments

Back slash?

The symbol / is called a Solidus, or often called a Slash or even worse, a Forward Slash when used in URLs or web addresses. The symbol \ is a Reverse Solidus or backslash when used as a divider in data file structures.

By SteveJKirby on 15 Oct 2009

hmmm, rather missing the point of 'tongue in cheek' there I think...

By Bluespider on 15 Oct 2009

But without it we wouldn't have OJ Simpson's URL

Backslash, backslash, Escape!

[Sorry had to]

By cheysuli on 15 Oct 2009

Don't the "people on the radio" realise that you can just start from the "www." bit anyway?

By halsteadk on 15 Oct 2009

wubbleyou-wubbleyou-wubbleyou

In retrospect, the www part was pretty redundant too and even harder to say on the radio!

However since most browsers/DNS setups will allow you to drop both, perhaps broadcasters could just be educated to start after the first dot: "pcpro.co.uk" works fine in both IE and Firefox and trips off the tongue quite nicely!

By JohnAHind on 15 Oct 2009

vey-vey-vey

We should pronounce www the German way then... "vey-vey-vey" - much quicker!

By mhawkshaw on 15 Oct 2009

Back slash? Solidus?

That / symbol is not a backslash or a solidus, it's a slash (or "forward slash", "stroke", "virgule", etc.).

By peterm2k on 15 Oct 2009

Forward slash?

I've always known it as an oblique:

oblique (abbreviation obl.) noun 1. an oblique line; a solidus (/).
(Chambers Online)

By 23522 on 15 Oct 2009

And why slash the dot?

While we are all Sir Tim bashing (including Sir Tim himself) why do we need two different path separators? We could have been spared the aggressive, masculine, even violent, sounding "slash" in favour of nice, cuddly, feminine, user-friendly "dot" all the way through.

Yes I know it marks the boundary between the DNS system and the server file system, but that is an implementation rather than a user-model detail. Surely the boundary could have been deduced? Just keep adding URL sections until you get a DNS resolution and then pass the rest on to the web server.

By JohnAHind on 15 Oct 2009

And why slash the dot?

While we are all Sir Tim bashing (including Sir Tim himself) why do we need two different path separators? We could have been spared the aggressive, masculine, even violent, sounding "slash" in favour of nice, cuddly, feminine, user-friendly "dot" all the way through.

Yes I know it marks the boundary between the DNS system and the server file system, but that is an implementation rather than a user-model detail. Surely the boundary could have been deduced? Just keep adding URL sections until you get a DNS resolution and then pass the rest on to the web server.

By JohnAHind on 15 Oct 2009

Whack

If "whack" http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/w/whack.htm doesn't work for everyone. Just invent a new alias, that'll solve half the problems. :D

By zeevro on 15 Oct 2009

"Don't the "people on the radio" realise that you can just start from the "www." bit anyway?"

Sometimes they do, but they often don't seem to understand the meaning of 'click' - several tell their listeners to 'simply click on classicfm.com', or similar. I've yet to work out how I click on something when I don't have a shortcut or hyperlink to it.

By davidbryant4 on 15 Oct 2009

Back slash?

The symbol / is called a Solidus, or often called a Slash or even worse, a Forward Slash when used in URLs or web addresses. The symbol \ is a Reverse Solidus or backslash when used as a divider in data file structures.

By SteveJKirby on 15 Oct 2009

Some people I know don't know what a colon is (as in : not intestines) and refer to it as a double dot or dot dot. So if he had used . not / it some people might say http double dot dot dot www dot pcpro dot co dot uk. That's a lot of dots!

By jamesyld on 15 Oct 2009

@davidbryant4

I used to give out URLs on student radio by starting the address with "the 3 w's dot..." - radio can't be clearer than that!

By thewelshbrummie on 15 Oct 2009

www

I read a magazine to CD for a group of blind listeners. Whenever I read a web address I always say world wide web instead of www as its much easier to say. The problem nowadays of course is that many websites are not www so I then have to say http:// and then the address which makes it longer to say than www

By soundman on 16 Oct 2009

A pain in the RS

Then there is every soldering iron geek's heaven - RS components. They decided to get in early on the web and set themselves up as rswww.com - without the prepended www! Nowadays that redirects, but there's clearly a strand of wilful perversity here because it goes to uk.rs-online.com ...

By Steve_Cassidy on 16 Oct 2009

www

well as we now have laboured over 3 "double-u"s (no it's not "dubya") from a Roman-era alphabet - isn't it time for a C21 consonant: "treble-u"?

By zeptepi on 18 Oct 2009

www

well as we now have laboured over 3 "double-u"s (no it's not "dubya") from a Roman-era alphabet - isn't it time for a C21 consonant: "treble-u"?

By zeptepi on 18 Oct 2009

www

well as we now have laboured over 3 "double-u"s (no it's not "dubya") from a Roman-era alphabet - isn't it time for a C21 consonant: "treble-u"?

By zeptepi on 18 Oct 2009

recursive posting

er sorry that was an error due to browser refresh problems - not a frightfully clever trebling of the point.

By zeptepi on 18 Oct 2009

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