Confusions and Connections

Happy birthday to the free Internet

Today is a special anniversary for the World Wide Web. Twenty years ago a document was signed at CERN that gave the code for the first web server to the world. More specifically, to the open source community. Just click on the image to read the full text.

The document that officially put the World Wide Web into the public domain on 30 April 1993 - Page 1The document that officially put the World Wide Web into the public domain on 30 April 1993 - Page 2

These simple two pages gave us the freedom that this wonderful new technology gives us. Freedom from the corporations that may have made it a propriety system with huge licensing fees for the privilege to use their technology.

We can use their webserver software but most of us don’t. With free operating systems, such as linux, available to us. Free webserver software. The most popular being Apache. All this came from one scientist sitting in his office in the late eighties dreaming of a way of making collaboration easier.

This became a simple program on his office workstation. The small roots that became the Internet that I work on every day.

To celebrate this great milestone, CERN has “turned back on” the first webserver. Info.cern.ch as well as the, currently, oldest web pages from Tim Berners-Lee’s original project. One of the amazing things is that it still can be viewed with the latest web browsers. Try doing that the other way around.

Not only can we view the first fledgeling steps of this new technology at its original address, we can also see how the language of the web, html, has evolved over time and how much of that original page we, web designers and programmers, still use every day.

Another project was released today, an archaeological project to reconstruct Tim’s first webserver. Not only on the original hardware but with the same software that was on that machine at the time. This includes being on the same internet, IP, address but to the software. This involved a long dead protocol, gopher. This brings a smile to this elderly web developer as it takes him back to his first use of the internet. These were in the days before the World Wide Web became the monolith it is today. In those days we had veronica, gopher and kermit to let us find out what was on the internet.

In the days before the web we could access the NASA gopher site. Telnet and use MUD (Multi-user talkers), the father’s of today’s Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, even use anonymous FTP to download software from the, long dead, HENSA archive at Lancaster University.

By the time the document that gave the technology, free of charge, to the world the World Wide Web had grown from one server to thousands.  Including the first image.  One of the CERN band,Les Horribles Cernettes.

Les Horribles Cernettes - The first image on the World Wide Web

The news of this great milestone was reported on the BBC website as well as on twitter by the project that is trying to recreate the first webserver.


As you can see it didn’t go as smoothly as one might think…

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