Cern to recreate first web pages

A team at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) has launched a project to re-create the first web page.The aim is to preserve the original hardware and software associated with the birth of the web.

The world wide web was developed by Prof Sir Tim Berners-Lee while working at Cern.

The initiative coincides with the 20th anniversary of the research centre giving the web to the world.

According to Dan Noyes, the web manager for Cern’s communication group, the recreation of the world’s first website will enable future generations to explore, examine and think about how the web is changing modern life.

The hope is that the restoration of the first web page and web site will serve as a reminder and inspiration of the web’s fundamental values.

At the heart of the original web is technology to decentralise control and make access to information freely available to all. It is this architecture that seems to imbue those that work with the web with a culture of free expression, a belief in universal access and a tendency toward decentralising information.

It is the early technology’s innate ability to subvert that makes re-creation of the first website especially interesting.

Those not heavily into web technology may be sceptical of the idea that using a 20-year-old machine and software to view text on a web page might be a thrilling experience.

The first browser- which one had to pay for, allowed users to edit and write directly into the content they were viewing, a feature not available on present-day browsers.

The machines were the most advanced of their time. Sir Tim used two of them to construct the web. One of them is on show in an out-of-the-way cabinet outside Mr Noyes’s office.

There was a serious discussion by Cern’s management in 1993 about whether the organisation should remain the home of the web or whether it should focus on its core mission of basic research in physics.

Sir Tim and his colleagues on the project argued that Cern should not claim ownership of the web.

Management agreed and signed a legal document that made the web publicly available in such a way that no one could claim ownership of it and that would ensure it was a free and open standard for everyone to use.

The rest- as the saying goes, is history.