The birth of the World Wide Web

The world's first website and server go live at CERN

20 December 1990

By Christmas 1990, Berners-Lee had defined the Web’s basic concepts, the URL, http and html, and he had written the first browser and server software. Info.cern.ch was the address of the world's first website and web server, running on a NeXT computer at CERN. The world's first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, which centred on information regarding the WWW project. Visitors could learn more about hypertext, technical details for creating their own webpage, and even an explanation on how to search the Web for information. There are no screenshots of this original page and, in any case, changes were made daily to the information available on the page as the WWW project developed. You may find a later copy (1992) on the World Wide Web Consortium website.

You can see the orginal NeXT computer at the Microcosm exhibit at CERN, still bearing the label, hand-written in red ink: "This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER DOWN!!"

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The birth of the World Wide Web
Computing at CERN
The history of CERN

The web extends to the high-energy-physics community

10 January 1991

In 1991, an early WWW system was released to the high-energy-physics community via the CERN program library. It included the simple browser, web server software and a library, implementing the essential functions for developers to build their own software. A wide range of universities and research laboratories started to use it. A little later it was made generally available via the internet, especially to the community of people working on hypertext systems.

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The birth of the World Wide Web

Berners-Lee posts a summary of the project on alt.hypertext

6 August 1991

On 6 August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee posted a summary of the World Wide Web project on several internet newsgroups, including alt.hypertext, which was for hypertext enthusiasts. The move marked the debut of the web as a publicly available service on the internet.

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The birth of the World Wide Web

First web server outside of Europe

12 December 1991

The first web server outside of Europe was installed on 12 December 1991 at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California. In 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois released its Mosaic browser, which was easy to run and install on ordinary PCs and Macintosh computers. The steady trickle of new websites became a flood. The world’s First International World-Wide Web conference, held at CERN in May, was hailed as the “Woodstock of the web”.

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The birth of the World Wide Web

CERN releases WorldWideWeb source code

30 April 1993

On 30 April 1993 CERN issued a statement putting the Web into the public domain, ensuring that it would remain an open standard. The organization released the source code of Berners-Lee's hypertext project, WorldWideWeb, into the public domain the same day. WorldWideWeb became free software, available to all. The move had an immediate effect on the spread of the web. By late 1993 there are over 500 known web servers, and the web accounts for 1% of internet traffic. 

Berners-Lee moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from where he still runs the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). By the end of 1994, the Web had 10,000 servers - of which 2000 were commercial - and 10 million users. Traffic was equivalent to shipping the collected works of Shakespeare every second.

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The birth of the World Wide Web
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