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You'd think he would have at least got rich; he had plenty of opportunities. But at every juncture, Berners-Lee chose the nonprofit road, both for himself and his creation. Marc Andreessen, who helped write the first popular Web browser, Mosaic--which, unlike the master's browser, put images and text in the same place, like pages in a magazine--went on to co-found Netscape and become one of the Web's first millionaires. Berners-Lee, by contrast, headed off in 1994 to an administrative and academic life at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From a sparse office at M.I.T., he directs the W3 Consortium, the standard-setting body that helps Netscape, Microsoft and anyone else agree on openly published protocols rather than hold one another back with proprietary technology. The rest of the world may be trying to cash in on the Web's phenomenal growth, but Berners-Lee is content to labor quietly in the background, ensuring that all of us can continue, well into the next century, to Enquire Within Upon Anything.
Joshua Quittner, TIME's Personal Technology columnist, is the new editor of TIME DIGITAL