The world’s oldest websites

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Africa, China, Europe, Kenya, USA
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Even if you can’t name the inventor of the World Wide Web (It’s Tim Berners-Lee!), you’ll probably want to celebrate one of the information network’s most important milestones. On August 6, 1991 — 24 years ago — Berners-Lee published the world’s first website from a lab in the Swiss Alp. Surprisingly, the world’s first website can still be visited today, more than two decades after its creation.

The site, originally found at the clunky URL “http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html,” was updated frequently after launching; therefore, images of its earliest versions were never saved. Nevertheless, a later copy from 1992 is still preserved and welcoming visitors. You can see what the site looks like by clicking this link here.

Berners-Lee first proposed his idea for a worldwide network of computers sharing information in 1989, while he was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. According CERN’s history of the first website, it was written on a NeXT computer, made by the company Steve Jobs founded after his ouster from Apple back in 1985.

The NeXT computer used by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 to create the world's first website.

The NeXT computer used by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 to create the world’s first website.

Berners-Lee’s site went live in 1991, and was accessed by a decidedly small audience of fellow CERN researchers. It wasn’t until 1993, when web browser Mosaic was released, that the Web & the doc-com boom took off.

So which are the other Internet fossils?

I made quick hunt for more of these intact interweb sites, and homepages with original historic details—HTML 2.0, frames, and animgifs—perfectly preserved from the glorious 90s. However some of these sites have been greatly modified spoiling what otherwise might have been the worlds 9th wonder in the next century or so. After wiping my tears off, I present you with them.

1991

CERN
The link is a snapshot of the CERN site, the first website, as of November 1992. The Web was publicly announced (via a posting to the Usenet newsgroup alt.hypertext) on August 6, 1991.
World Wide Web Virtual Library
Originally Tim Berners-Lee’s web catalog at CERN.
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
Paul Kunz from SLAC visited Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in September 1991. He was impressed by the WWW project and brought a copy of the software back to Stanford. SLAC launched the first web server in North America on December 12, 1991.
ACME Laboratories
A free software site, created by Jeffrey Poskanzer, who created the compact web server thttpd. It is still active today.

1992

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications site was an early home to the NCSA Mosaic web browser, as well as documentation on the web and a “What’s New?” list which many people used as an early web directory.
Fermilab
Second web server in North America, following in the trend of high-energy physics laboratories.
SunSITE
Early, comprehensive archiving project. Project as a whole started in 1992 and was quick to move to the web.

1993

By the end of 1993, there were 623 websites, according to a study by MIT Researcher Matthew Gray.
Bloomberg.com
Financial portal with information on markets, currency conversion, news and events, and Bloomberg Terminal subscriptions.
Doctor Fun
One of the first webcomics, noted by the NCSA as “a major breakthrough for the Web”.
The LANL preprint archive
Web access to thousands of papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and biology; developed out of earlier gopher, ftp, and e-mail archives at Los Alamos. Now housed at lanl.arxiv.org
Global Network Navigator
Example of an early web directory created by O’Reilly Media and one of the Web’s first commercial sites; it was hosted at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN).
The Internet Movie Database
Founded in 1989 by participants in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies, the IMDB was rolled out on the web in late 1993, hosted by the computer science department of Cardiff University in Wales.
Internet Underground Music Archive
Created by students at the University of California, Santa Cruz to help promote unsigned musical artists. Music was shared using the MP2 format, presaging the later extreme popularity of MP3 sharing and Online music stores.
The Tech
The MIT campus newspaper, The Tech, claims to be the first newspaper to deliver content over the Web, beginning in May 1993.
MTV
The music television network’s domain was registered in 1993 by VJ Adam Curry, who personally ran a small unofficial site.
PARC Map Server
Arguably the earliest precursor of MapQuest and Google Maps. PARC Researcher Steve Putz tied an existing map viewing program to the web. Now defunct.
Principia Cybernetica
Probably the first complex, collaborative knowledge system, sporting a hierarchical structure, index, map, annotations, search, plenty of hyperlinks, etc. Designed by Francis, Cliff & Valentin to develop a cybernetic philosophy.
ExPASy
The first life sciences web site. Still active.
W3Catalog,
the web’s first primitive search engine, released on September 2, 1993.

Aliweb
The web’s second search engine appeared in November 1993. Aliweb did not use a web robot, but instead depended on being notified by website administrators of the existence at each site of an index file in a particular format.

1994

By mid-1994 there were 2738 websites, according to Gray’s statistics; by the end of the year, more than 10,000.
Amnesty International
Human Rights site. Created in 1994 by the organization’s International Secretariat and the Computer Communications Working Group of Amnesty International Canada.
Cybersell
The first commercial advertising service focused on using spam comes online as sell.com, set up by Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, notorious for spamming Usenet newsgroups earlier that year.
The Economist
The Economist, “went live in early 1994” with a website “structured as a portal with various search tools of the day (e.g., Archie, Veronica, Jughead, WAIS and Gopher)”; it cost $120, paid for by one of the magazine’s correspondents, and by the end of the year “America Online voted it one of the world’s top-ten news sites, nosing out Time-Warner’s celebrated Pathfinder site—which reputedly cost $120 million to build.”
FogCam!
World’s oldest still operating webcam. Located at San Francisco State University.
Justin Hall‘s Links from the Underground
One of the earliest examples of personal weblogging.
Lawinfo
Early legal website, provides public access to pre-qualified, pre-screened attorneys, and to free legal resources.
Pathfinder.com
One of the first Internet portals, created by Time Warner.
Pizza Hut
The pizza delivery restaurant started by allowing people in Santa Cruz, California to order pizza over the Web.
Sex.com
Subject of a twelve-year legal battle that established parameters of domain ownership.
Transdat.com
The first site using the internet for a sales medium on a global scale for heavy machinery.
The Simpsons Archive
The first fan site for The Simpsons television show.
VeloNews
One of the first sports news sites, initially providing Tour de France news.
VirtuMall
Created in 1994 by MIT dorm mates, pioneered shopping cart technology, pioneered credit card payments sent via fax to mail order catalogs, created the first pooled-traffic site, and helped foster standards for security. One of the first “tenants” was Hickory Farms.
The WWW Useless Pages
Perhaps the first site which showcased bad or eccentric websites rather than ‘cool’ ones.
WebCrawler 
An early search engine for the Web, and the first with full text searching, by Brian Pinkerton at the University of Washington, announced in June of 1994.
Whitehouse.gov
The official website of the White House.
World-Wide Web Worm
The World-Wide Web Worm (WWWW) was one of the first search engines for the World-Wide Web, by Oliver McBryan at the University of Colorado, announced in March of 1994.
Yahoo!
Originally started as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web”; later Yahoo without the exclamation mark.
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  2. billrowe2013 says:

    …and here I thought Al Gore invented the internet!

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