In honor of today's 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web, its creators at the research laboratory CERN (the Higgs Boson guys) have gone all nostalgic — and a bit anti-establishment — in recreating the first publicly available free web page out there: Info.cern.ch. This is just a nostalgic redux of that original site — an actual original at that original address doesn't actually exist because it changed so much over the years. (The Internet Archive only dates back to this 1997 error page.) But as you can see, it's a pretty simple creation of HTML coding, with a bunch of hyperlinks, some of which work, some of which don't. In 1993, of course, this "hypertext system" was a big innovation, as explained in this 1989 proposal, released on another web anniversary. The document describes "hypertext" as a solution to the problem of linear-systems, better allowing users to navigate and connect through these pages. Here's a screenshot of the early Web running on the NeXt browser in 1993:
To be clear, April 30, 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the announcement that CERN would turn "W3" (as the acronym went then) into a free and open source platform, putting out the page above with information about how it worked and how to participate. (Gopher, begone!) That's not to be confused with the birth of the Internet, which is the technology that makes the web work — the "tubes" so to speak.
Today, rather, is the day for celebrating the original ideals of the web, which have since been corrupted, at least according to CERN's Dan Noyes, the web manager for the communications group. "Present-day browsers offer gorgeous experiences but when we go back and look at the early browsers I think we have lost some of the features that Tim Berners-Lee had in mind," he told BBC News's Pallab Ghosh. If it weren't for this creation, the web would have been much more corporate, he says. "Without it you would have had web-like things but they would have belonged to Microsoft or Apple or Vodafone or whoever else. You would not have a single open standard for everyone," added Sir Tim. James Gillies, CERN's head of communications.
The web hasn't brought as much "social change" as first anticipated either, of course. Despite many attempts, most websites mostly offer "one-way communication" — and even with the open source HTML standard, most of the biggest sites are owned by big corporations.
Beyond celebrating 20 years of Internetting the way we know it, the new CERN initiative aims to remind present day web users of what could have been. "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," Noyes said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.