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.
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 early ’90s, our beloved web was very different than it is today. A dedicated group of geeks used e-mail lists to discuss the future of the language at its core, HTML. Let’s take a ride back in time and see what it looked like when common tags like IMG and EMBED (tags were capitalized back then) were introduced.
Netscape founder Marc Andreessen was still working on Mosiac, the first graphical web browser, when he created the IMG tag to display an image “embedded in the text at the point of the tag’s occurrence”:
I’d like to propose a new, optional HTML tag:
Required argument is SRC=”url”.
Now it is hard to imagine a time when an inline image was revolutionary. Did Andreessen’s fellow list members immediately accept IMG? Nope. Andreessen received several replies that suggested better ways to solve the problem. Mosiac supported the tag despite the several objections, including one from web inventor Tim Berners-Lee.
Netscape also blazed a trail with the EMBED tag, which makes it possible to display, among other things, flash videos. I’m sure the YouTube guys are thankful. In 1995 Bjoern Stabell questioned the necessity of EMBED:
I fear that the new features they are creating become the ad hoc standards that will prove difficult to undo. One tag that struck me as not wanted/needed was the EMBED tag as it seems to be just an IMG tag with no inline content type specified.