Tufts CS 117 (Spring 2022):
Internet-scale Distributed Systems

Tufts CS 117 Reading Assignment:
Weaving the Web


Weaving the Web is the book that Tim Berners-Lee wrote describing his experiences inventing, developing, and promoting the World Wide Web. The purpose of this assignment is to help you understand what inspired him, and what caused him to make some of the decisions that he did.


Please read the following three sections of "Weaving", and the 2001 Time Magazine article on Tim Berners-Lee:

  1. The introduction by Michael Dertouzous
  2. Beginning of the book through p.51 (i.e. through the end of chapter 4)
  3. p.71 (bottom - "The rise of different browsers...") through p.74 (end of chapter 6)
  4. The Man Who Invented the Web by Robert Wright, Time Magazine, June 2001 (takes just a few minutes to read — this gives some interesting background on Tim BL, and it also gives a sense of how the Web looked to people about ten years ago)

Actually, the book is an interesting and easy read, and you may enjoy reading all of it. The sections listed above are the only ones essential for this assignment.

You may also be interested in this additional background material which is not required reading:

Getting the Questions

For this assignment and indeed for most assignments in CS 117, you'll be asked to answer a series of questions that are provided to you in an HTML file. For your convenience, a link will be provided to a browsable copy, so that you can easily review the questions in advance. You will also be given a link to a copy that you can download for editing.

You must supply your answers by inserting them in the spaces provided in the downloaded HTML file. When you are done, you must submit your answers using the usual Tufts CS department "provide" command. See instructions below.

In many cases there will be no need to do so, but you may if you wish use HTML markup or additions to the CSS at the top of the file, to structure and format your answers. Indeed, one of the reasons for asking you to submit your responses in this way, is to encourage you to become more familiar with HTML. That said, demonstrating your prowess with HTML is not the goal of this assignment or of most others. You should add to the markup or formatting when it's truly helpful, but otherwise, you should insert your answers in the obvious way. Most likely, the two sorts of formatting that will be most helpful will be to add additional paragraphs when appropriate, or to use <ul> or <ol> for lists.

For full credit, your file should validate as HTML5 using the official validator for uploaded files. It may not be possible in all cases for the graders to check the validity of every submission, but we reserve the right to do so when we suspect trouble, and to deduct credit for validation failures. You can ignore the warning about "Using experimental feature: HTML5 Conformance Checker"; that's just because the HTML5 validator is still experimental at W3C (because the specification for HTML5 isn't final).

Do not use programs like Microsoft Word to edit your HTML. First of all, one of the points of these exercises is to give you practice writing your own HTML. What's worse, programs like Word re-arrange the template files we give you and stick in a a variety of verbose and extraneous markup. You should be using source code editors like Emacs or VIM (or Notepad) to edit the HTML for this and other assignments. The templates we give you are intended to be easy to modify. You may lose significant credit if your HTML is a mess, and using a program like Word is not an acceptable excuse!

Review questions for this assignment - Download questions for this assignment

Submitting your answers

Download the HTML file with the questions using the link above. Fill in your answers, use your local browser to check formatting, and the HTML validator to make sure your HTML is correct. You may ignore warnings about character encodings. Then use provide to submit:

provide comp117 weaving weavingthewebquestions.html

Note that comp117 is lowercase; provide will choke if you get that wrong.

Getting the book

This assignment provides lots of interesting and useful context for the remainder of CS 117, but completion of this assignment is not essential input to any particular lecture. There should be no disadvantage for students who may have to delay their work until copies of the book are available. It's best to submit by the official due date, because you will get some early context for how the Web came to be, and because there are some large assignments later in the term. We will discuss a firm deadline for this assignment in class, but most students do well to start early.