Time for a backlash against the Berners-Lee backslash?

Despite his apology today, it's tough to hold two unnecessary keystrokes against Sir Tim Berners-Lee...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was in penitent mood today: when the man who invented the internet was asked if he'd do anything differently, given his time again, he said he regretted putting forward slashes at the start of every URL - since they're actually entirely pointless. Now we take his point; they're certainly pretty annoying, and many a time we've been tempted to hurl our computer through the window when a missing slash has led to an error message. But on balance, it seems a bit churlish to hold it against him...

Sir Tim, lest we forget, is the man who first came up with the idea of the World Wide Web two decades ago, initially as part of a project to help academic researchers share information with each other. His revolutionary way of organising and linking pages via URLs forms the entire basis of the internet - yet he's never profited from his invention.

The point he was making today was that URLs would work equally well without the annoying '//' (which were a legacy of early computing languages) at the front. Whereas leaving them out would not only have saved us zillions of index-finger keystrokes, and zillions of 'Syntax Error' messages, but also tonnes and tonnes of paper and printing ink. He's also offended by people's growing tendency to call it 'backslash backslash' (which is admittedly a bit stupid, given that they're clearly forward slashes).

All of which may well be true - but we're not sure people are losing too much sleep over it. For one thing, you don't normally need to type slashes in these days - most web browsers now fill them in for you when you type the rest of the address. So it's much less of an issue than it used to be. And though we appreciate that using lots of paper and ink isn't terribly good for the planet, the fact remains that Berners-Lee is responsible for the invention that's done more to facilitate communication and commerce than almost any other in history. We reckon we can forgive him a few printer cartridges for that.

 

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Time for a backlash against the Berners-Lee backslash?

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