A Little History of the World Wide Web
from 1945 to 1995
Vannevar Bush writes an article in Atlantic Monthly about a photo-electrical-mechanical device called a Memex, for
memory extension, which could make and follow links between documents on microfiche.
Doug Engelbart prototypes an “oNLine System” (NLS) which does hypertext browsing editing, email, and so on. He invents
the mouse for this purpose. See the Bootstrap Institute Library.
Ted Nelson coins the word Hypertext in A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate. 20th
National Conference, New York, Association for Computing Machinery, 1965. See also: Literary Machines. Note: There used
to be a link here to “Hypertext and Hypermedia: A Selected Bibliography” by Terence Harpold, but the site hosting the
resource did not maintain the link.
Andy van Dam and others build the Hypertext Editing System and FRESS in 1967.
While consulting for CERN June-December of 1980, Tim Berners-Lee writes a notebook program,
“Enquire-Within-Upon-Everything”, which allows links to be made between arbitrary nodes. Each node had a title, a type,
and a list of bidirectional typed links. “ENQUIRE” ran on Norsk Data machines under SINTRAN-III. See: Enquire user
manual as scanned images or as HTML page(alt).
“Information Management: A Proposal” written by Tim BL and circulated for comments at CERN (TBL). Paper “HyperText and
CERN” produced as background (text or WriteNow format).
May Proposal recirculated.
Mike Sendall, Tim’s boss, the purchase of a NeXT cube, and allows Tim to go ahead and write a global hypertext system.
Tim starts work on a hypertext GUI browser+editor using the NeXTStep development environment. He makes up “WorldWideWeb”
as a name for the program. (See the first browser screenshot) “World Wide Web” as a name for the project (over
Information Mesh, Mine of Information, and Information Mine).
Project original proposal reformulated with encouragement from CN and ECP divisional management. Robert Cailliau (ECP)
joins and is of the version.
Initial WorldWideWeb program development continues on the NeXT (TBL) . This was a “what you see is what you get” ()
browser/editor with the inline creation of links. The first web server was nxoc01.cern.ch, later called info.cern.ch,
and the first web page http://nxoc01.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html Unfortunately CERN no longer supports the
historical site. Note from this era too, the least recently modified web page we know of, last changed Tue, 13 Nov 1990
15:17:00 GMT (Though the URI changed.)
Technical Student Nicola Pellow (CN) joins and starts work on the line-mode browser. Bernd Pollermann (CN) helps to get
CERNVM “FIND” index running. TBL gives a colloquium on hypertext in general.
Line mode browser and WorldWideWeb browser/editor demonstrable. Access is possible to hypertext files, CERNVM “FIND”,
and Internet news articles.
February for ECP division. 26 February 1991 Presentation of the project to the ECP/PT group.
Line mode browser (www) released to the audience on vax, rs6000, sun4.
Workplan produced for CN/AS group.
Presentation to “C5” Committee. A general release of WWW on central CERN machines.
CERN Computer Seminar on WWW.
The file available on the net by FTP, posted on alt.hypertext (6th, 6th, 19th Aug), comp.sys.next.announce (20th),
comp.text.sgml and comp.mail.multi-media (22nd). Jean-Francois Groff joins the project.
VMS/HELP and WAIS gateways installed. Mailing lists www-interest (now www-announce) and [email protected] (see
archive) started. One year status report. Anonymous telnet service started.
Presented poster and demonstration at Hypertext’91 in San Antonio, Texas (US). the browser installed on VM/CMS. CERN
computer newsletter announces W3 to the HEP world.
Dec 12: Paul Kunz installs first Web server outside of Europe, at SLAC.
Line mode browser releases 1.1 available by anonymous FTP (see news). Presentation to AIHEP’92 at La Londe (FR).
Line mode v 1.2 on alt.hypertext, comp.infosystems, comp.mail.multi-media, .sting, comp.archives.admin, and mailing
29th April: Release of Finnish “Erwise” GUI client for X mentioned in by TimBL.
Pei Wei’s “Viola” GUI browser for X test version dated May 15. (See by TimBL)
At CERN, Presentation and demo at JENC3, Innsbruck (AT). Technical Student Carl Barker (ECP) joins the project.
Presentation and demo at HEPVM (Lyon). People at FNAL (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (US)), NIKHEF (Nationaal
Instituut Hoge Energie Fysika, (NL)), DESY (Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron, Hamburg, (DE)) join with WWW servers.
Distribution of WWW through CernLib, including Viola. WWW library code ported to DECnet. Report to the Advisory Board on
Introduction of CVS for code management at CERN.
Plenary session demonstration to the HEP community at CHEP’92 in Annecy (FR).
Jump back in time to a snapshot of the WWW Project Page as of 3 Nov 1992 and the WWW project web of the time, including
the list of all 26 reliable servers, NCSA’s having just been added, but no sign of Mosaic.
By now, Midas (Tony Johnson, SLAC), Erwise (HUT), and Viola (Pei Wei, O’Reilly Associates) browsers are available for X;
CERN Mac browser (ECP) released as alpha. Around 50 known HTTP servers.
NCSA release a first alpha version of Marc Andreessen’s “Mosaic for X”. Computing seminar at CERN. The University of
Minnesota announced that they would begin to charge licensing fees for Gopher’s use, which caused many volunteers and
employees to stop using it and switch to WWW.
WWW (Port 80 HTTP) traffic measures 0.1% of NSF backbone traffic. WWW presented at Online Publishing 93, Pittsburgh.
The Acceptable Use Policy prohibiting commercial use of the Internet re-interpreted., so that it allowed.
April 30: Date on the declaration by CERN’s directors that WWW technology would be freely usable by anyone, with no fees
being payable to CERN. A milestone document.
Ari Luotonen (ECP) joins the project at CERN. He implements access, proceeds to re-write the CERN server.
O’Reilly hosts first WWW Wizards Workshop in Cambridge Mass (US).
WWW (Port 80 ) traffic measures 1% of NSF backbone traffic. NCSA releases working versions of Mosaic browser for all
common platforms: X, PC/Windows Macintosh.
September 6-10: On a bus at a seminar Information at Newcastle University, MIT’s Prof. David Gifford suggests Tim BL
contact Michael Dertouzos of MIT/LCS as a possible consortium host site.
Over 200 known HTTP servers. The European Commission, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft CERN start the first Web-based project
of the European Union (DG XIII): WISE. Using the Web of technological information to Europe’s fewer regions.
WWW receives IMA award. John Markov writes a page and a half on WWW and Mosaic in “The New York Times” (US) business
section. “The Guardian” (UK) publishes a page on WWW, “The Economist” (UK) analyses the Internet and WWW.
Robert Cailliau gets go-ahead from CERN Management to the First International WWW Conference at CERN.
O’Reilly, Spry, etc. announce the “Internet in a box” product to bring the Web into homes.
Marc Andreessen and colleagues leave NCSA to form “Mosaic Communications Corp” (later Netscape).
First International WWW Conference, CERN, Geneva. Heavily oversubscribed (800 apply, 400 allowed in): the “Woodstock of
the Web”. VRML is conceived here. TBL’s closing keynote hints at the organization. (Some of Tim’s slides on Semantic
M. Bangemann report on European Commission Information Superhighway plan. Over 1500 registered servers.
Load on the first Web server (info.cern.ch) 1000 times what it has been 3 years earlier.
Over June ’91 to June 94, stead
MIT/CERN agreement to start W3 Organisation is announced by Bangemann in Boston. MIT press release. Reports in Wall
Street Journal, Boston Globe etc.
The founding of the IW3C2: the International WWW Conference Committee, in Boston, by NCSA and CERN.
The European Commission and CERN propose the WebCore project for the development of the Web core technology in Europe.
World Wide Web Consortium founded.
Second International WWW Conference: “Mosaic and the Web”, Chicago. Also heavily oversubscribed: 2000 apply, 1300
First W3 Consortium Meeting at M.I.T. in Cambridge (USA).
First meeting with European Industry and the European Consortium branch, at the European Commission, Brussels.
CERN Council unanimously approves the construction of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) accelerator, CERN’s next machine
and a competitor to the US’ already defunct SSC (Superconducting Supercollider). Stringent budget conditions are however
imposed. CERN thus decides not to continue WWW development, and in concertation with the European Commission and INRIA
(the Institute National pour la Recherche en Informatique et Automotive, FR) transfers the WebCore project to INRIA.
the Web is the main reason for the theme of the G7 meeting hosted by the European Commission in the European Parliament
buildings in Brussels (BE).
CERN holds a two-day seminar for the European Media (press, radio, TV), attended by 250 reporters, to show WWW. It is
demonstrated on 60 machines, with 30 pupils from the local International High School helping the reporters “surf the
Third International WWW Conference: “Tools and Applications”, hosted by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, in Darmstadt (DE)
The founding of the Web Society in Graz (AT), by the Technical University of Graz (home of Hyper-G), CERN, the
Minnesota (home of Gopher) and INRIA.