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Chapter 12. Server Operating System > Unix and the Origin of the Web

12.1. Unix and the Origin of the Web

Networking has been central to the development of Unix. Unix was originally developed around 1970 as a research project by AT&T Bell Laboratories, building on multiuser and multitasking ideas from the Multics government research project of the 1960s. Since AT&T was barred from selling software because it was the U.S. telephone monopoly, it allowed universities to use the source code for education and research. The University of California at Berkeley, in particular, continued development on the TCP/IP implementation in the Unix kernel. The Berkeley group introduced enough changes that Unix was for about ten years split into two main camps: Berkeley Unix and AT&T Unix. Around 1988, these were merged into System V Release 4 (SVR4) Unix, but derivatives of the two original camps continue to exist, such as BSDI and SCO.

The HTTP protocol and the first web server were both developed on Unix platforms and are natural outgrowths of previously existing Unix work. HTTP inherited many characteristics of FTP, but extended FTP with automated requests. The first popular web server software, the University of Illinois' httpd , was a classical Unix daemon. At that point, all Unix machines had TCP/IP networking ability and FTP by default, so the technological jump from the existing file transfer protocol to the web protocol was much smaller than would be expected from its subsequent impact on the world. As almost all Unix machines were networked, it was a trivial matter to retrieve httpd from the University of Illinois and start it running on your local machine. There was no charge for the software, since it came from a tax-sponsored research project. Web usage exploded because the Internet was primed and ready for a new and simpler front end.


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