CERN, the European particle physics research organization, has started work to restore and preserve its first web page — which just so happens to be the web’s first webpage. Hosted on Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, the page has aged surprisingly well — and shines a light on the earliest days of the Internet.
The move is timely since today marks the 20th anniversary of CERN releasing the core standards of the web free for anyone to use (the first web page was published a few years earlier).
“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,’’ CERN noted on its website.
And flourish it has: Since Berners-Lee posted the first web page, the open web has evolved to support sites ranging from Wikipedia to Facebook, Google to Buzzfeed and Boston.com, giving both major corporations and individuals the ability to share and connect on relatively equal footing for the price of a domain.
So now CERN has taken up digital archeology in addition to its search for the “God Particle,’’. Already, the European organization has restored a 1992 version of the first webpage at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, replete with a fittingly grand introduction:
“The WorldWideWeb (W3) is a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.’’
The page also features what could be the web’s first typos: The second sentence on the page is missing an “and,’’ and Berners-Lee’s adherence to proper punctuation was unconventional, at best, starting a web tradition that lives on today.