File Under: HTML, Web Basics

The Very First Website Returns to the Web

Robert Cailliau’s original WWW logo. Image: CERN.

Twenty years ago today CERN published a statement that made the World Wide Web freely available to everyone. To celebrate that moment in history, CERN is bringing the very first website back to life at its original URL.

If you’d like to see the very first webpage Tim Berners-Lee and the WWW team ever put online, point your browser to http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

For years now that URL has simply redirected to the root info.cern.ch site. But, because we all know cool URIs don’t change, CERN has brought it back to life. Well, sort of anyway. The site has been reconstructed from an archive hosted on the W3C site, so what you’re seeing is a 1992 copy of the first website. Sadly this is, thus far, the earliest copy anyone can find, though the team at CERN is hoping to turn up an older copy.

Be sure to view the source of the first webpage. You’ll find quite a few things about early HTML that have long since changed — like the use of <HEADER> instead of <HEAD> or the complete absence of a root <HTML> tag. There’s also a trace of Berners-Lee’s famous NeXT machine in the <NEXTID N="55"> tag.

CERN has big plans for the original website, starting with bringing the rest of the pages back online. “Then we will look at the first web servers at CERN and see what assets from them we can preserve and share,” writes CERN’s Dan Noyes. “We will also sift through documentation and try to restore machine names and IP addresses to their original state.”

In the mean time, have a look at the web’s original todo list and read more about the project to restore the first website over on Mark Boulton’s blog.