CERN reposts the world’s first Web page


Photo taken on April 30, 2013 in Geneva shows a 1992 copy of the world's first web page. The world's first web page will be dragged out of cyberspace and restored for today's Internet browsers as part of a project to celebrate 20 years of the Web (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
April 30, 2013

In an effort to preserve the Web’s history, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) republished the world’s first Web site — two decades after physicists made the technology behind the Web open to everyone.

The site’s reappearance is part of a project to preserve the history of the Web, and to celebrate 20 years of a “free, open Web” that changed the way we do just about everything.

The first reaction to the Web was less than enthusiastic. Mike Sendall, the supervisor who reviewed a 1989 proposal to create an information network from British physicist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, gave his nod to the project with the words: “Vague, but exciting.”

Berners-Lee first designed the network to act as a way for CERN physicists and engineers to manage and share information.

On April 30, 1993, a team at CERN first made the technology underlying the World Wide Web available, royalty-free, to anyone who wanted to use it.

The Web site itself isn’t much to look at — just a rundown of the product that includes a look at its development history, instructions of how to create your own pages and technical information about the World Wide Web — but it laid the groundwork for an estimated 630 million Web sites to come in the next 20 years, CERN said in a blog post.

The page that started it all went offline sometime between its birth in 1993 and its twenty-year anniversary and was never preserved with so much as a screenshot, CERN said in its blog post, but those working on the project have been sifting through server files to find the earliest copies of the first Web files that they possibly can.

Interest in the first Web site was so high Tuesday that the site went offline again, however briefly, when it was overwhelmed by Web traffic. The group responsible for its restoration posted a Twitter message saying that the interest brought the site “to its knees.”

“We’re working on it,” the message read. “Terrific to see so much interest!”

The page’s resurrection is part of a larger project to preserve the Web’s earliest days, including efforts to recreate the experience of using early Web browsers, preserving data on the first Web servers used by British computer scientist and Web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee and providing an archive of information on the earliest days of the Web.

The group is also trying to preserve the first hardware used to host early Web files, including, the BBC reported, a 1990s era, $6,500 computer built by NeXT — the company founded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs after he was ousted from the company in 1985. The computer is still intact but does not work.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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