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Is this the first ever web page? If not, CERN would like to know

Eggheads recreate what could be the original website

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Boffinry nerve-centre CERN has attempted to recreate the very first website to mark 20 years since the official launch of the World Wide Web.

It is feared the first ever web page is lost to the sands of time as it was changed daily and any backups are few and far between. However the team has pulled up a snapshot of the very first website dating from November 1992, which the eggheads say "may be the earliest copy we can find". The CERN bods are still hunting around for earlier versions.

The team also wants to use the original web server machine names and IP addresses to dish out the archived site to the planet. The effort coincides with the anniversary of CERN's statement on 30 April 1993 that made the technology behind the web available to all on a royalty-free basis, clearing the way for the online addictions we all have today.

“There is no sector of society that has not been transformed by the invention, in a physics laboratory, of the web," Rolf Heuer, director-general of Switzerland-based CERN, said in a canned statement. He carefully and correctly referenced the invention of the web, not the internet.

“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.”

Back in 1993, a CERN team led by Tim Berners-Lee unveiled the "World Wide Web" - which they also called W3, though that didn't stick for long - and made the software to run a website server freely available along with a basic browser and a library of code. The system - which would evolve into the ginormous Web 2.0 internet the globe has today - was conceived in March 1989 by British physicist Berners-Lee on his trusty NeXT computer.

When it was time to go public with the tech, the W3 team also took out an ad for the web that appeared in Tagung Deusches ForschungsNetz, encouraging folks to try out their new project:

To find out about WWW:

telnet info.cern.ch [a command you would type into your network-enabled computer]

This will give you the very basic line-mode interface. Don't be disappointed: use it to find out how to install it or more advanced graphical interface browsers on your local system.

Dan Noyes, web manager in the CERN communications group, said in a blog post that the "don't be disappointed" line in the ad showed the high hopes Berners-Lee had for the tech.

"The WWW team knew that they had something revolutionary that could look rather ordinary, even disappointing. But they had an idea of what they were building," Noyes said.

"The fact that they called their technology the World Wide Web hints at the fact that they knew they had something special, something big."

The early website includes various gems about the newborn worldwide web project, such as Berners-Lee recommending:

If you have a serious server then it may last longer than the machine on which it runs. Ask your internet domain name manager to make an alias for it so that you can refer to it, instead of as "mysun12.dom.edu" as "info.dom.edu" for example, or "www.dom.edu". This will mean that when you change machines, you move the alias, and people's links to your data will still work.

As well as restoring the first URL, CERN also wants to rifle through early web servers to see what it can find and the preserve the data for posterity, turning the first webpage into a website that tells the story of how the net as we know it now started. ®

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