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Who invented August 23 as “Internaut day”?

Yesterday, Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeted:

Apparently, he was just as puzzled as me when a large segments of the media reported that August 23. should be celebrated as “Internaut day”, as the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web.

I think the answer is: Andreas Sofroniou.

Sofroniou is a retired psychotherapist who is also also the author of 106 self-published books on a diversity of subjects. In his book “Information tehnology and management” (Lulu, 2015), Sofroniou writes:

On 6 August 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext group. This date also marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet, although new users only access it after August 23. For this reason this is considered the internaut's day. (s. 241)

Sofroniou does not cite sources, but the first half of that paragraph has been copypasted from the CERN timelines, while the second half (the bit about "new users only access it after August 23" looks like "original research" (aka. "made up by the author").

The Usenet article by Tim Berners-Lee is headlined WorldWideWeb: Summary and still exists in the archives for alt.hypertext. There is nothing in the Usenet article that make it plausible that August 23rd was a special date when the World Wide Web allowed access to "new users". There is no mention about such an event in Sir Tim's own book about the history of WWW, (“Weaving the web. The past, present and future of the World Wide Web by its Inventor”, Orion Business Books 1999), but it is clear from Berners-Lee's own book that there were users outside of CERN prior to August 1991. What is alluded to in the CERN timelines is that Berners-Lee in the August 6th Usenet-article announced public availability of the source code of the CERNs prototype line mode browser.

At one point, Sofroniou's bogus “Internaut day” and its connection to the mythical August 23rd 1991 made its way into Wikipedia (it was redacted 2016-08-23 15:49). And from Wikipedia, it of course made its way into the media.

What is most interesting here is that post-truth – when one man's misunderstanding of an old Usenet article ends up in Wikipedia, it is used without questioning or checking by a quite large proportion of the Earth's journalists. (And as a teacher, I know that students are just as gullible.)

Comments

To think, I was confused a minute ago.