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From ~marado to @marado

04 de abril de 2020 — ~marado

Speaking yesterday with someone about tilde.pt, which he found out about due to my contributions to botany, it took me a while but I did realize that there is a generational issue recognizing a ~, or, in particular, recognizing it as a way to refer to someone.

Once upon a time, before @username was the common way to refer to a person (who came with that first? twitter?), ~username was so. UNIX users will still be probably used to do things like cd ~ to go to their $HOME, or even ~user to refer to some other person's home. But I do not think that's where the most common ~ recognition comes from: instead, what people will most remember is the number of websites of "white pages" (as some other person refered about them to me as), that had, as an address, http://institution/~username.

So, where does this ~ come from? Well, there was a time where every machine connected to the web was more or less expected to have Apache's httpd running, and it had a useful module, called mod_userdir. UserDir actually was inherited: Apache's httpd started in 1995 as a continuation of the NCSA HTTPd webserver, and NCSA not only had the UserDir directive, it was actually active by default. What does all this means? Well, it means that, by default, UNIX machines with a webserver running would probably have NCSA or later Apache's httpd, which, by default, would be allowing each of that server's users to have their own website, at the address http://server.address/~username , and to have something in there they'd just have to put some html pages into their public_html directory.

tags: history, tilde, UNIX, username, apache, httpd, userdir, en

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