30 years ago, the first web page went live. This is what it looked like
In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee became frustrated with the way information was shared and stored at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
He noted that in addition to being disseminated inefficiently, information was lost within the organization, largely due to high staff turnover. The technical details of old projects could sometimes be lost forever, or had to be recovered through lengthy investigations in an emergency. Different divisions of CERN used software written in a variety of programming languages, on different operating systems, which made the transfer of knowledge tedious and time consuming.
In response to these troubles, he made a suggestion in 1989 that would change the world, titled with some lackluster: Information management: a proposal. He described a system where all the different CERN divisions could publish their own part of the experiment, and anyone could access it. The system would use hypertext to allow people to post and read information on any type of computer. It was the start of the World Wide Web.
The first webpage went live 29 years ago today, August 6, 1991. As such, you’ve probably seen people online today link to the “very first” webpage. .
If you click on the link, that’s what you’ll be greeted with. You’ll likely be immediately confused by the date, as well as the lack of memes and incredibly aggressive people in the comments section.
Although this gives you an idea of what the first web page look at like, we may never know what the actual webpage viewed that day in August 1991. There are no screenshots, instead what you see is the first record we have from this first web page taken in 1992. Although we know that when the World Wide Web first launched it contained an explanation of the project itself, the hypertext, and how to create web pages, the front page of the system designed to prevent the loss of information has ironically been lost, perhaps forever.
Although, in retrospect, what Berners-Lee invented changed the world, at the time its creators were too preoccupied with trying to convince their colleagues to realize its value and adopt it to think about archiving their invention. so that future historians can observe it.
“I mean the team back then didn’t know how special it was, so they didn’t think about keeping copies, did they?” Dan Noyes, who ran the much larger CERN website in 2013 says NPR. He thinks the first incarnation of the world’s first webpage is still there somewhere, probably on a floppy disk or hard drive lying around someone’s house.
This is how the 1992 version was found.
“I took a copy of the entire website on a floppy disk on my machine so I could demonstrate it locally just to show people what it looked like. And I ended up keeping a copy of that floppy disk,” Tim Berners-Lee says NPR.
Unfortunately, despite CERN’s best efforts, the first page itself was not found. It may never be.