CERN Recreates First Ever Web Page

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A CERN project has recreated the first ever Web page in an effort to preserve history about the web’s early days

The first ever web page has been recreated in an effort to preserve the history of the Internet.

The development came as part of a project to restore info.cern.ch, the world’s first website, by a team at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

CERN Project

Tim Berners-Lee Photo: Silicon.deAs well running the Large Hadron Collider, CERN is  famous as the birthplace of the World Wide Web, mostly thanks to the efforts of Sir Tim Berners Lee, who back in 1989 is credited with inventing the web whilst working at CERN. He named his project the “World Wide Web”, and  originally developed it for academics and universities to share information around the world.

The CERN project today is an effort to preserve some of the digital assets that are associated with the birth of the web. To this end, it restored the first web page and web site, which it hopes will serve as a reminder of the web’s fundamental values.

A screenshot of the webpage and the first web browser can be found here, and shows a mostly text-based page, a long way from the glossy front pages of modern commercial websites. However it was very sophisticated for its time, and indeed the first browser even allowed people to write directly into the page’s content, a feature absent from modern browsers.

Another interesting point was that the first website at CERN – and indeed the world – was hosted on Berners Lee’s actual NeXT computer, which CERN is hoping to restore and bring back to life.

20 Years Ago

So why go to the bother of recreating the first website at this time? Well the reason is to celebrate a notable anniversary.

Twenty years ago on 30 April, 1993, CERN made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty-free basis to everyone. CERN said that by making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, “the web was allowed to flourish.”

“There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the web”, said Rolf Heuer, CERN Director-General. “From research to business and education, the web has been reshaping the way we communicate, work, innovate and live. The web is a powerful example of the way that basic research benefits humankind.”

Dan Noyes, the web manager for Cern’s communication group, told BBC News that the re-creation of the world’s first website will enable future generations to explore, examine and think about how the web is changing modern life.

“I want my children to be able to understand the significance of this point in time: the web is already so ubiquitous – so, well, normal – that one risks failing to see how fundamentally it has changed,” he reportedly said.

“We are in a unique moment where we can still switch on the first web server and experience it. We want to document and preserve that,” he said.

Last month Sir Tim Berners Lee shared the first Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering with four others who helped create the Internet: Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreesen.

What other 1980s technology can you remember? Try our quiz!