There's a lot of hype and bullshit in tech, with minor product updates hailed as revolutionary and insignificant apps labelled life-changing.
But the world wide web is different because it's almost impossible to overstate its impact. It's been 25 years since Sir Tim sketched it out and in that time it's transformed society, changed the way we live, love and learn, and introduced us to furries, bronies and Nyan Cat.
The life-changing web changed my own life pretty dramatically. Before I discovered it I lived in a town I loathed and commuted for hours to a job I hated. I was horribly bored, horrifically depressed and hopelessly single. And then, just after I met with a psychologist who was going to give me ALL THE DRUGS, I discovered the world wide web.
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The wonderful world wide web
I've written before that you could label the web with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: "Lonesome no more!" That's how it was for me.
The web erased geography, enabling me to make new friends in places as disparate as Bath and California. It created a job that I love. It allowed me to collaborate on music when real life tried its best to stop me and gave me a constant stream of things to entertain and educate me.
But more than anything, it connected me to the love of my life.
I met my wife online, by accident. Online dating wasn't a proper thing back then - it was something only losers did, and I decided to write a hilarious piece about the losers who did it. I never wrote the piece, because I virtually met someone who was going to write a hilarious book about the losers who did it.
She never wrote the book either - but we were engaged within weeks, married within months and eleven years on, we have two kids who I'm sure will put me in a home when i start waxing lyrical about dial-up modems and Winsock.dll.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that the most important things in my life, the most excellent adventures I've had and the most significant things I've experienced wouldn't have happened without Sir Tim's invention.
And that's the joy of it. The world wide web is a web of lives changed, communities transformed, big ideas and little kindnesses sweeping across the planet. It's the most important technological development of our time, and it's changed the world in ways we don't fully comprehend yet.
It's a web of stories.
Here are some of the TechRadar writers' stories to get you started:
In the summer of 1997, I was a spotty teenager and my best buddy's dad had something called "Compuserve" connected to a "modem" inside his computer. Friends was the biggest sitcom in the world back then so we typed www.friends.com into what was probably Internet Explorer 3 and hit ENTER. To our innocent surprise, the page that loaded was not Monica's Diary, it was pure porn - and of course my friend's dad chose that moment to walk in and check up on us as we frantically tried to close the many pop-ups. He said nothing and left us to it, but we stuck to searching Alta Vista for '80s TV shows after that. And obviously I've never looked at a porn site since.
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The whirring, purring noise of dialling up is a creaky embarrassment now, but when I was 18 and my parents installed our first internet connection, that was the noise of the future. In it, I heard the forging of contacts throughout the world; possibilities of endless conversation; access to mysterious, semi-legal sources of infinite songs. And what did I do with it? Googled my way to the websites of my favourite bands, to be dismayed by autoplay music, pushy Flash graphics and frankly inexplicable bulletin boards. I've got no nostalgia for the crappy architecture, or for the blowhard libertarianism that the young internet belched out, but I do miss that noise.
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I remember trying Google for the first time and just not getting it. At that point most web pages were telling you what to look for and where to click but Google was just a plain search box that I had to type into - it was all a bit strange. Another early memory was going in a chat room with my mates and speaking to some girls (at least I think they were girls). It was all going swimmingly until one of my so-called friends grabbed the keyboard and typed: "Let me see your boobs." They swiftly logged off and for good reason. He tried it in real life once and it didn't work then either - guess he thought the world wide web was different.
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As a shy teenager when the web "came of age", my first online experiences were all about talking to people I was too afraid to interact with in real life. Hours spent on message boards resulted in an email-friendship with an angry 17-year-old named Steve built on our mutual dislike of the Spice Girls. Steve lived in Australia and tried to educate me in the ways of Fleetwood Mac, and because I thought emailing Australia must cost as much as phoning Australia, I lied to my parents about what I was up to and dreaded the phone bill coming. On reflection, they might have been more upset about their 13-year-old daughter interacting with some older guy in Australia, but hey. We weren't friends for very long but my correspondence with Steve was the precursor to Napster, Limewire, internet radio and Hanson message boards: it was my first step on the way to finding out who I really was.
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I'd like to publicly thank (and apologise to) the boss of the Somerset company who hired me to work in the marketing department one summer holiday. I was given use of my boss's dial-up modem and CompuServe account to use the internet for research, which mainly involved hanging out in chatrooms. Because the connection was so painfully slow after being on a relatively fast university connection, I changed it from dialling into a local server at local call rates to a much faster London server at not-so-local rates. I like to think that if I hadn't used my initiative in that way I may not be where I am today.
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When I first used the web, it was only on one computer at school (an Acorn A5000 and there was one guy who always hogging it) - the modem noise will live with me forever. I remember we searched for stuff using WebCrawler but I think pretty much the only decent site was the BBC one. Everything else just looked like a sea of text against a gray background. I thought it was quite amazing, but I don't remember thinking it was a game changer as dialling up was such a hassle.
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