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Someone above mentioned HTML as spin-of of CERN. But should we really believe something similar would not have been invented elsewhere within a few years, had there been no CERN?
That's a really hard question to answer. HTML didn't happen directly because of CERN, but it happened because CERN was an environment in which a quick mark-up system would be instantly useful, and because there was no need for 'research' to invent anything more complicated.
There were many, many alternatives to HTML, including horrible things from academia that are best forgotten.
I know people who were researching them, and while they were often better than HTML in many ways - e.g. no broken links - they were also wretchedly overcomplicated, with limited public appeal.
So HTML might well have never happened in its current form. We could easily have had some kind of Windows-ish or other system of gargantuan complexity and slowness.
If you look at academic vs 'public' computing there's a clear pattern of highly abstracted command line tools in academia (e.g. Latex), and much simpler WYSIWYG colouring-book computing in the public area.
HTML broke that pattern by doing something script-ish but relatively simple inside academia, which subsequently escaped into the wild.
That hasn't really happened before, which I think means it's not something that could be relied on.
Or in other words - it's likely CERN got lucky.
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