During a lecture last night at the Royal Society in London, Tim Berners-Lee revealed that he invented the World Wide Web using a NeXT computer. He presented his lecture using Apple's OS X Web browser Safari on a PowerBook. He also referenced the Web's potential by talking about the possibilities of iCal, Apple's calendar program.

Berners-Lee was discussing one of the Web's many futures, in what he calls the Semantic Web. Devised by himself, this is due to become the next big thing, he told the audience. It will enhance the supply and exchange of information and data for the benefit of the Web user.

The vision behind the Semantic Web can be described as a mesh of information linked up in such a way as to be easily processed by machines on a global scale, a type of globally linked database. This gradual enhancement would occur as Web applications develop and incorporate this new language, changing the very mechanisms of the Internet.

Tim Berners-Lee discussed this growing concept and the great changes it could have on everyday life, "potentially as revolutionary as the original introduction of the World Wide Web itself".

He described his pleasure at the Web's development. "The most wonderful thing about creating the Web is the diversity of people involved in creating it, the fact that it is open and royalty-free. There was – and is - a sense of excitement and unbounded opportunity."

"There are challenges ahead, such as the fact that many people think the Web is done. It might also become too baroque for a decent foundation, with too many bells and whistles now threatening its future. And then there's the possibility that it will be ambushed by patents."

"But things just as big and useful as Google will crop up in the next few years," he promised.

Asked if he had any regrets about his pioneering work on the Web, Berners-Lee replied curtly: "Yes. Slash slash…"

Web inventor Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1990 while working at CERN, the European laboratory for Particle Physics. He designed the universal resource locator, or URL, which gives each Web page a unique address, and HTML, the basic language that allowed Web pages to be created. He wrote the first World Wide Web server ‘httpd’ and the first hypertext browser ‘WorldWideWeb’ for use at CERN in late 1990, and they were made available over the internet in the summer of 1991. The first Web browser worked only on the NeXT operating system, he told the audience. NeXTStep later became the basis for Mac OS X when Apple bought NeXT. Its boss Steve Jobs is now CEO of Apple.

Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Laboratory for Computer Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1994 to co-ordinate and lead the technical evolution of the Web and to ensure its continuing universal operability. An important part of this work is reviewing new Web technology developments to ensure that no national, linguistic or cultural bias has crept into the designs.

Ethical issues The tension between open access to all information and the privacy of personal information is one ethical issue for the Web. But, says Professor Berners-Lee, “its development is a great example of a human endeavour in which many people participated driven by individual excitement and a common vision. There was no plan - it happened because a diverse group of people, connected by the Internet, wanted it to happen. From the fact that it did work I draw great hope for all our future. We now have the ability to communicate and build a society in which mutual respect, understanding and peace between peoples and nations can occur at all levels by finding a balance between the diversity and commonality in our rich world.”

Society pages 'The future of the World Wide Web' by Professor Tim Berners-Lee OBE FRS is available as Video-On-Demand. In order to view the lecture you require RealPlayer.

The Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, and has been at the forefront of enquiry and discovery since its foundation in 1660. The backbone of the Society is its Fellowship of the most eminent scientists of the day, elected by peer review for life and entitled to use FRS after their name.

There are currently more than 65 Nobel Laureates among the Society’s 1,300 Fellows and Foreign Members. Throughout its history, the Society has promoted excellence in science through its Fellowship, which has included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking.