Robert Cailliau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Cailliau
Cailliau in 2019
Born (1947-01-26) 26 January 1947 (age 77)
Tongeren, Belgium
Alma materGhent University
University of Michigan

Robert Cailliau (last name pronunciation: [kajo], born 26 January 1947) is a Belgian informatics engineer who proposed the first (pre-www) hypertext system for CERN in 1987[1] and collaborated with Tim Berners-Lee on the World Wide Web (jointly winning the ACM Software System Award) from before it got its name. He designed the historical logo of the WWW, organized the first International World Wide Web Conference at CERN in 1994[2] and helped transfer Web development from CERN to the global Web consortium in 1995.[3] He is listed as co-author of How the Web Was Born by James Gillies, the first book-length account of the origins of the World Wide Web.


Cailliau was born in Tongeren, Belgium. In 1958 he moved with his parents to Antwerp. After secondary school he graduated from Ghent University in 1969 as civil engineer in electrical and mechanical engineering (Dutch: Burgerlijk Werktuigkundig en Elektrotechnisch ingenieur). He also has an MSc from the University of Michigan in Computer, Information and Control Engineering, 1972.[4]

During his military service in the Belgian Army, he maintained Fortran programs to simulate troop movements.[5][4]

Three capital letter W superimposed on each other, on top the slogan "Let’s Share What We Know", and below "World Wide Web"
Historical World Wide Web logo designed by Robert Cailliau[6]

In December 1974 he started working at CERN as a Fellow in the Proton Synchrotron (PS) division, participating in the renovation project of the control system of the accelerator. In April 1987 he left the PS division to become group leader of Office Computing Systems in the Data Handling division.[7] In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed a hypertext system for access to the many forms of documentation at and related to CERN.[8] Berners-Lee created the system, calling it World Wide Web, between September and December 1990. During this time, Cailliau and he co-authored a proposal for funding for the activity.[9] Cailliau later became a key proponent of CERN's web activity, running several student projects to create and support browsers on different operating systems including various UNIX flavours and Classic Mac OS.[10] With Nicola Pellow he helped develop the first web browser for the Classic Mac OS operating system called MacWWW.[9][11][12][13]

In 1993, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Cailliau started the European Commission's first web-based project for information dissemination in Europe (WISE).

As a result of his work with CERN's Legal Service, CERN's director of Future Research Walter Hoogland signed the official document that released the web technology into the public domain on 30 April 1993.[14]

In December 1993 Cailliau called for the first International WWW Conference which was held at CERN in May 1994.[9][15][16] The oversubscribed conference brought together 380 web pioneers and was a milestone in the development of the web. The conference led to the forming of the International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee which has organized an annual conference since then. Cailliau was founding member of the committee from 1994 until 2002.

In 1995 Cailliau started the "Web for Schools" project with the European Commission, introducing the web as a resource for education. After helping to transfer the web development from CERN to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), he devoted his time to public communication. He went on retirement from CERN in January 2007.

Cailliau was an active member of Newropeans, a pan-European political movement for which he and Luca Cominassi drafted a proposal concerning the European information society.[17]

He was a public speaker on the past and future of the World Wide Web and has delivered many keynote speeches at international conferences. He currently has the status of External Collaborator at CERN IdeaSquare.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Gillies, James; Cailliau, Robert (28 September 2000). How the Web Was Born. Oxford University Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780192862075.
  2. ^ Past and Future Conferences of WWW
  3. ^ Gillies, James; Cailliau, Robert (28 September 2000). How the Web Was Born. Oxford University Press. p. 0. ISBN 9780192862075.
  4. ^ a b Jardon, Quentin (5 March 2018). "Robert Cailliau, l'oublié du Web - Épisode 1 L'évangélisation * 24h01". 24h01 (in French).
  5. ^ "Knack dossiers : Het web van Tongeren". Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Why Do We Call It World Wide Web?". Psychology Today.
  7. ^ "WWW people". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Ten Years Public Domain for the Original Web Software". CERN. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Tim Berners-Lee. "Frequently asked questions - Robert Cailliau's role". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  10. ^ Gillies, James; Cailliau, Robert (28 September 2000). How the Web Was Born. Oxford University Press. p. 221. ISBN 9780192862075.
  11. ^ Stewart, Bill. "Web Browser History". Living Internet. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  12. ^ Berners-Lee, Tim (3 November 1992). "Macintosh Browser". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  13. ^ Berners-Lee, Tim (3 November 1992). "Macintosh Browser". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  14. ^ Fluckiger, François. "History of the CERN Web Software Public Releases" (PDF). CERN Document Server. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  15. ^ Robert Cailliau (21 July 2010). "A Short History of the Web". NetValley. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  16. ^ "IW3C2 - Past and Future Conferences". International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee. 2 May 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  17. ^ "European Information Society: Newropeans wants an avant-garde role for the EU". 11 March 2009. Archived from the original on 28 December 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Software System Award". ACM Awards. Association for Computing Machinery. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  19. ^ "Geneve Reconnaissante Medal". CERN Courier. July 2001.
  20. ^ Ehrenpreis 2010 Archived 29 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed 24 April 2012

External links[edit]