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Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Sorry About the Slashes

By Craig Buckler

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web addressSir Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web, has apologized for the double slash (//) notation that appears at the beginning of every web address:

Really, if you think about it, it doesn’t need the double-slash. I could have designed it not to have the double-slash.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sir Tim explained that he did not predict the hassle the double slashes would cause when he first devised the web addressing system. The problems identified include:

  • It looks too technical to novice web users.
  • Many users mistakenly refer to it as “backslash-backslash”.
  • It’s one of the biggest causes of URL syntax errors.
  • An unimaginable quantity of printer ink and paper has been wasted on the unnecessary characters.

Fortunately, the slashes have become less of a problem during the past few years since most browsers add “http://” to any address that’s not fully qualified.

However, I think we can all forgive Sir Tim. Perhaps he could have devised a simpler addressing system, but few of us would have jobs if it were not for his foresight and inventiveness almost 30 years ago.

Are the double slashes a problem? Do you have trouble explaining URL notations to your clients? Does Sir Tim really need to apologize?

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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