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A Little History of the World Wide Web
From 1960s to 1995

Edited by Nicole Crémel , IT/User Support

(and 10th birthday for WWW Rlease at CERN!)

This is extracted from a Web page available in the W3C - World Wide Web Consortium - Web site. Original article can be found at


Doug Engelbart prototypes an "oNLine System" (NLS) which does hypertext browsing editing, email, and so on. He invents the mouse for this purpose.
(See the Bootstrap Institute library [1].)

Ted Nelson coins the word Hypertext in "A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate", 20th National Conference, New York, Association for Computing Machinery [2], 1965.
(See also: Literary Machines [3], a Hypertext and hypermedia: a selected bibliography (1991) [4]).

Andy van Dam and others build the Hypertext Editing System and FRESS in 1967.


While consulting for CERN June-December of 1980, Tim Berners-Lee writes a notebook program, "Enquire-Within-Upon-Everything", which allows links to be made between arbitrary nodes. Each node had a title, a type, and a list of bidirectional typed links. "Enquire" run on Norsk Data machines under SINTRAN-III.


In March 1989 (later redistributed unchanged apart from the date added in May 1990), the document "Information Management: A Proposal" [5]. is written by Tim Berners-Lee and circulated for comments at CERN.

1990 ...
... or the birth of World Wide Web

Same proposal is recirculated
Mike Sendall (Tim's manager at CERN) accepts the purchase of a NeXT cube, and allows Tim to go ahead and write a global hypertext system.
Tim starts work on a hypertext GUI browser+editor using the NeXTStep development environment. (See description and the first browser screenshot [6]).
First names for the project were "Mesh", "Mine of Information", and "Information Mine", but Tim decided on "World Wide Web" when writing the code in 1990.
Project original proposal reformulated with encouragement from CN and ECP divisional management.
Robert Cailliau (ECP) is co-author of the new version and proposal (12 November 1990).
Initial WorldWideWeb program development continues on the NeXT. This was a WYSIWYG browser/editor with direct in-line creation of links.
Technical Student Nicola Pellow (CN) joins and starts work on the line-mode browser. Bernd Pollermann (CN) helps get interface to CERNVM "FIND" index running. Tim Berners-Lee gives a colloquium on hypertext in general.
December (Christmas)
Line mode browser and WorldWideWeb [7] browser/editor are demonstrable: access is possible to hypertext files, CERNVM "FIND", and Internet news articles.

... the first CERN release for WWW

Workplan is built for the purposes of ECP division. On 26 February 1991 a presentation [8] of the project is made to the ECP/PT group.
The line mode browser (WWW) is released to a limited audience on "PRIAM" Vax, RS6000, Sun4.
A new work-plan is produced for the CERN CN/AS group. On 17 May 1991 a
Presentation [9] is made to the "C5" Committee. This lead to a general release of WWW on central CERN machines.
On 12 June 1991 a CERN Computing Seminar [10] is given on "Hypertext" and the "WorldWideWeb" program.
Files are available on the net by FTP, posted on the Internet newsgroup alt.hypertext (6, 16, 19th Aug), (20th), comp.text.sgml and comp.mail.multi-media (22nd). Jean-Francois Groff joins the project.
VMS/HELP and WAIS gateways are installed. The CERN mailing lists www-interest (now www-announce) and have been created (see the archive [11])
A poster and demonstration are presented at the conference Hypertext'91 [12] in San Antonio, Texas (US). A W3 browser is installed on VM/CMS.

The CERN Computer Newsletter (CNL) 204 announces W3 to the HEP World!

On December 12 Paul Kunz installs first Web server outside of Europe, at SLAC.

1992 ...
... the first GUI browsers for X-Windows

On January 15 the line mode browser release 1.1 is available by anonymous FTP, and any FTP site becomes a W3 information source (see news [13]). A presentation is made to AIHEP'92 at La Londe (FR).
Line mode browser release 1.2 is announced on alt.hypertext, comp.infosystems, comp.mail.multi-media, cern.sting, comp.archives.admin newsgroups, and various mailing lists.
On 29th April the Finnish "Erwise" GUI client for X is released with comments [14] made by Tim Berners-Lee.
Pei Wei's "Viola" GUI browser for X test version is available on May 15 (see review [15] made by Tim). Technical Student Carl Barker (ECP) joins the project.
Presentation and demo at HEPVM (Lyon (FR)). People at FNAL (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (US)), NIKHEF (Nationaal Instituut voor Kern- en Hoge Energie Fysika, (NL)), DESY (Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron, Hamburg, (DE)) join the project with WWW servers.
Distribution of WWW (including Viola) is made through the "CERN Program Library" (CernLib) standard procedure. The WWW library code ported to DECnet.
Plenary session demonstration to the HEP community at CHEP'92 in Annecy (FR).
Look at a snapshot of the "World Wide Web" Project Home page [16] at that time, including the list of all 26 reasonably reliable Web servers [17] (NCSA's having just been added, but no sign of Mosaic yet).

1993 ...
... the birth of NCSA Mosaic

By now, Midas (Tony Johnson, SLAC), Erwise (HUT), and Viola (Pei Wei, O'Reilly Associates) browsers are available for X; a CERN Mac browser (ECP) is released as alpha. There are around 50 known HTTP servers.
NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois (US)) releases the first alpha version of Marc Andreessen's "Mosaic for X". Another "computing seminar" is given at CERN
WWW (Port 80 HTTP) traffic measures 0.1% of NSF backbone traffic. WWW is presented at "Online Publishing 93, Pittsburgh.
April 30: declaration by CERN's directors that WWW technology would be freely usable by anyone, with no fees being payable to CERN.
Ari Luotonen (ECP) joins the project at CERN. He implements access authorisation, proceeds to re-write the CERN HTTPD server.
O'Reilly hosts the first WWW Wizards Workshop in Cambridge Mass. (US).
WWW (Port 80 HTTP) traffic measures 1% of NSF backbone traffic. NCSA releases working versions of Mosaic browser for all common platforms: X, PC/Windows and Macintosh.
Over 200 known HTTP servers. The European Commission, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and CERN start the first Web-based project of the European Union (DG XIII): WISE, using the Web for dissemination of technological information to Europe's less favoured regions.
WWW receives IMA award. John Markov writes a page and a half on WWW and Mosaic in "The New York Times" (US) business section. "The Guardian" (UK) publishes a page on WWW, "The Economist" (UK) analyses the Internet and WWW.
Robert Cailliau gets go-ahead from CERN management to organise the First International WWW Conference at CERN.

1994 ...
... birth of Netscape, CERN ends up WWW development

O'Reilly, Spry, etc., announce "Internet in a box" product to bring the Web into homes.
Marc Andreessen and colleagues leave NCSA to form "Mosaic Communications Corp." (now Netscape).
On May 25-27 the First International WWW Conference [18], takes place at CERN, Geneva, and is heavily oversubscribed (800 apply, 400 allowed in): the "Woodstock of the Web" (VRML is conceived there).
M. Bangemann produces a report for the European Commission Information Superhighway plan. Over 1500 servers are now registered and the load on the first Web server ( is 1000 times what it has been 3 years earlier.
The MIT/CERN agreement to start the W3 Organisation is announced by M. Bangemann in Boston (press release in Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, etc.)
Founding of the IW3C2: the International WWW Conference Committee, in Boston, by NCSA and CERN.
The European Commission and CERN propose the WebCore project for development of the Web core technology in Europe.
The second International WWW Conference, "Mosaic and the Web", takes place in Chicago and it is again heavily oversubscribed (2000 apply, 1300 allowed in).
On December 14 the first W3 Consortium [19] Meeting takes place at M.I.T. in Cambridge (USA).
On December 15 there is the first meeting with European Industry and the European Consortium branch, at the European Commission, Brussels.
On December 16 CERN Council approves unanimously the construction of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) accelerator, CERN's next machine and competitor to the US' already defunct SSC (Superconducting Supercollider). Stringent budget conditions are however imposed. CERN thus decides not to continue WWW development, and in concertation with the European Commission and INRIA (the Institut National pour la Recherche en Informatique et Automatique, FR) transfers the WebCore project to INRIA.


the Web is the main reason for the theme of the G7 meeting hosted by the European Commission in the European Parliament buildings in Brussels (BE).
CERN holds a two-day seminar for the European Media (press, radio, TV) [20], attended by 250 reporters, to show WWW. It is demonstrated on 60 machines, with 30 pupils from the local International High School helping the reporters "surf the Web".
The third International WWW Conference, "Tools and Applications" [21], is hosted by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, in Darmstadt (DE)
Founding of the Web Society in Graz (AT), by the Technical University of Graz (home of Hyper-G), CERN, the University of Minnesota (home of Gopher) and INRIA.

If you want to


References and Links

[1] Bootstrap Institute library (1960s)

[2] Association for Computing Machinery (1965)

[3] Literary Machines (1960s)

[4] Hypertext and hypermedia: a selected bibliography (1991)

[5] "Information Management: A Proposal" (1989)

[6] "The WorldWideWeb browser" and "screenshot" in 1990

[7] "What were the first WWW browsers? (1990)

[8] CERN Presentation of the project (26 February 1991)

[9] CERN Presentation to "C5" (17 May 1991)

[10] CERN Computing Seminar on WWW (12 June 1991)

[11] CERN www-talk 1991 mailing list archives

[12] Hypertext'91 Conference

[13] News for FTP access (1992)

[14] Tim's report on "Erwise" (first GUI client for X) (1992)

[15] Tim's report on "Viola" (GUI browser for X) (1992)

[16]"World Wide Web" Project Home page (November 1992)

[17] List of the 26 Web servers in November 1992

[18] First International WWW Conference (1994)

[19] The World Wide Web Consortium: Prospectus

[20] CERN World-Wide Web Days for the European Media

[21] third International WWW Conference ("Tools and Applications")

[22] List of Internet Histories (from ISOC)


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