The Worlds First Website Launched 30 Years Ago

On August 6, 1991, the first website was introduced to the world.

And while perhaps not as exciting or immersive as some of the nearly 1.9 billion websites that exist today, it makes sense that the first web page launched on the good ol’ W3 was, well, instructions about how to use it.

The first website contained information about the World Wide Web Project. It launched at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, where it was created by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. On it, people could find out how to create web pages and learn about hypertext (coded words or phrases that link to content).

Berners-Lee created the web for the same reason a lot of us visit websites today: to make life just a little bit easier. For him, the problem to be solved rested in computers themselves: there was no way to share information between different devices.

And so in 1989, Berners-Lee proposed the idea for an information management system to his managers at CERN. The system would use hypertext to connect documents on separate computers connected to the Internet.

At first, the managers’ response was something along the lines of cool, but no thanks. But when Berners-Lee returned with a new-and-improved proposal a year later, the computer scientist was granted permission to work on the project. By 1991, it was ready to launch. Berners-Lee had developed HTML, HTTP and URLs — the building blocks for creating websites — all on his NeXT computer designed by Steve Jobs.

And so, with the creation of a single web page, the World Wide Web was born. And it’s grown quite a bit since then. There were 10 websites by 1992, 3,000 websites by 1994 (after the W3 became public domain), and 2 million by the time the search engine Google made its debut in 1996.

It’s worth mentioning that the first website was also lost. Excited by progress and unable at the time to fathom the true scope of the web’s abilities, computer scientists didn’t archive many of the very first websites. A project to restore the world’s first web page was launched in 2013 by CERN.

But not to worry: It’s back now, even at its original URL, for you to explore.

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.

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