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CERN to recreate world’s first Web page as Web turns 20 years old
The research organization that introduced the world to the Web 20 years ago is marking the milestone by launching a project to re-create the first Web page.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, published a statement on April 30, 1993, that made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty-free basis.

Other information retrieval systems that used the Internet — such as WAIS and Gopher — were available at the time, but the Web's simplicity, along with the fact that the technology, with a basic browser and a library of code, was free, led to its rapid adoption and development.

"There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the Web," Rolf Heuer, CERN director-general, said in a statement. "From research to business and education, the Web has been reshaping the way we communicate, work, innovate and live. The Web is a powerful example of the way that basic research benefits humankind."

BIRTH OF THE WEB

The first website at CERN — and in the world — was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on the NeXT computer of Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist at CERN widely acknowledged as the inventor of the Web.

According to CERN, the website described the basic features of the Web, including how to access other people's documents and how to set up your own server. The NeXT machine — the original Web server — is still at CERN, but the world's first website is no longer online at its original address.

The website contains only text explaining some of the basics of the World Wide Web. CERN is working to restore it and to preserve the digital assets that are associated with the birth of the Web.

The website was originally available at http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html but for many years that URL has been redirecting to http://info.cern.ch.

CERN has retrieved a 1992 copy of the site — the earliest it could find — and put it back online at its original address. CERN will keep trying to find an earlier copy.

"When the first website was born, it was probably quite lonely. And with few people having access to browsers — or to Web servers so that they could in turn publish their own content — it must have taken a visionary leap of faith at the time to see why it was so exciting," CERN said in a blog post.

PRESERVING THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE

Dan Noyes, the Web manager for CERN's communication group, said re-creating the world's first website will give future generations the opportunity to think about how the Web is changing life.

"I want my children to be able to understand the significance of this point in time: The Web is already so ubiquitous — so, well, normal — that one risks failing to see how fundamentally it has changed," he told BBC News.

"We are in a unique moment where we can still switch on the first Web server and experience it. We want to document and preserve that".

To learn more about the project and the first website, visit http://first-website.web.cern.ch

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