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Berners-Lee among web pioneers awarded £1 million engineering prize

Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Marc Andreessen, and Louis Pouzin have been named as the first winners of the £1 million Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

The five men, who each made significant contributions to the creation of the Internet and the World Wide Web, "revolutionised the way we communicate and enabled the development of whole new industries," the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement. The winners will receive their individual prizes each worth £1 million in June.

While five winners were named for the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, future prizes will be awarded to no more than three individuals at a time, according to the academy.

The first group of winners includes some of the most famous names in Internet history. Berners-Lee, who tweeted Monday that he was "very honoured" and grateful credit was being given to "coders [and] standards geeks," is credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989. While working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the early 1970s, Kahn and Cerf developed the TCP-IP protocol that serves as the backbone of the Internet. Andreessen co-authored the pioneering Mosaic Web browser in 1993 and co-founded Netscape Communications, while in the early 1970s Pouzin created the datagram and developed the CYCLADES packet-switching network which influenced the design of the Internet.

Andreessen, writing on his blog, said he was "humbled and grateful" to receive the prize but took care to credit his Mosaic co-author Eric Bina for writing "the original code for Mosaic with me—specifically all the difficult parts."

"It is amazing to think that the consumer Internet and the World Wide Web are still only 20 years old. So much important work has been done in the last 20 years—including bringing the Internet to more than 2 billion people around the world but also so much important work has yet to be done. I firmly believe our field's best days are still ahead of us, and I can't wait to see what the next generation of engineers will accomplish," he wrote.

Now a successful venture capitalist, Andreessen said he would "donate the prize money to charitable programs that help spread the culture and foundational knowledge of engineering — such as scholarships and summer programs for engineering students."