The World Wide Web currently comprises nearly 2 billion (yes, billion) websites, with conservative estimates putting that number around 1.9 billion. This is truly remarkable considering that the internet, at its genesis, had only one website – the first ever created, back in 1991 on the 6th of August.
It was the spark that led to the wildfire of the virtual space we now have, and tennerr is truly fascinated by its story and history.
THE WORLD WIDE WEB PROJECT
Although most fantasies of cyberspace are rooted in ideals of absolute and largely unregulated freedom, particularly from governments, the internet surprisingly owes its beginnings to those very bodies. More specifically, cooperation between several European governments and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) essentially birthed the World Wide Web.
British Computer Scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, then head of the World Wide Web project at CERN, when he was confronted with various data sharing issues across devices and locations, he suggested the idea of linking isolated documents on separate systems via the internet with hypertext.
He eventually succeeded, creating HyperText Markup Language (HTML, language designed to code web pages), Uniform Resource Locators (URL, specific addresses of websites), and HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP, protocol for fetching HTML files). Now 30 years later, those elements are the foundations of most contemporary websites.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST WEBSITE?
If you should visit info.cern.ch, the unimpressive domain name of the internet’s first ever website, you would get access to information about the very website Berners-Lee launched, as well as a classic, line-mode retro version of the website itself. See below.
Confession: The above image technically wasn’t the first ever webpage. It’s actually a copy of the page. For reasons largely unknown, the first website was lost from the internet but luckily, retrieving it was the mission of some internet historians back in 2013, who tracked down a copy of it Berners-Lee saved to a floppy disk.
As for the website’s contents, there were resources about building other websites, further understanding HTTP, HTML, and URLs, and how those elements could be used to link content via hyperlinks. It really represented Berners-Lee wish – for people to be interconnected, knowledgeable and creative with the tools he had left for them.
GROWTH OF THE WEB AND LOSS OF THE FIRST WEBSITE
Between the years of 1992 to 1996, webpages flooded the digital space, with well over 2 million being accessible on the web. And so pervasive was the influence of websites that pretty quickly, physical directories lost their relevance in the physical world. At the height of that growth in 1996, when there was a need for a reliable vehicle to navigate the now flooded cyberspace, Google was born.
Fun fact: Berners-Lee created and launched the first website on a NeXT computer, designed and created by one Steve Jobs. Yes, that Steve Jobs.
Given the world we live in now, it’s safe to say Berners-Lee’s mission was accomplished.