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History of the Web
Beginning at CERN

The History of Web Development Beginning at CERN (Centre Européen de Recherche Nucléaire) is a short history explaining how Tim Berners-Lee and others brought together the technologies needed to be able to share documents using Web browsers in a multi-platform environment which evolved from those humble beginnings into the World Wide Web as we know it today. A directory of related links about Web development and the history of the Web follows the bibliography.
CERN is now called now the European Organization for Nuclear Research or the Organisation Européenne de Recherche Nucléaire.



Tim Berners-Lee is credited with having created the World Wide Web while he was a researcher at the European High-Energy Particle Physics lab, the Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire ( CERN), in Geneva, Switzerland. A tool was needed to enable collaboration between physicists and other researchers in the high energy physics community.


Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal called HyperText and CERN and circulated his proposal for comments at CERN in 1989. The proposal was the solution to the technologies that would enable collaboration in the high energy physics community. Tim had a background in text processing, communications, and real-time software. The proposal was further refined by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau in 1990.


Berners-Lee's proposal was an extension of the gopher idea but incorporated many new ideas and features. It was also inspired, in part, by the concept of hypertext and some of Ted Nelson's work on Xanadu.
      Three new technologies were incorporated into his proposal. Briefly, they were HTML (HyperText Markup Language) used to write the web documents, HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) to transmit the pages, and a web browser client software program to receive and interpret data and display results. An important concept of his proposal included the fact that the client software program's user interface would be consistent across all types of computer platforms so that users could access information from many types of computers.


A line-mode user interface (named at CERN, the world wide web or www) was completed in late 1989. The interface was used on a minor network in March 1991. May 1991 was the first time that the information-sharing system using HTML, HTTP, and a client software program (www) was fully operational on the multiplatform computer network at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland.


The availability of CERN's files was announced in the UseNET newsgroup, alt.hypertext, in August 1991. This was the first time that the availability of the files was announced to the public.


All of the documents coded with HTML elements were stored on one main computer at CERN. This special type of computer was called a "web server" (by the physicists at CERN) because it "served-up" batches of cross-linked HTML documents. There was only one Web server located at CERN, but by the end of 1992 there were over 50 Web servers in the world. Many of these earliest Web servers were located at universities or other research centers. These servers were using line-mode interfaces. By June 1999 there were more than 720,000 public information servers. In April of 2001 there were over 24 million servers (http://www.netcraft.co.uk/survey/).


In 1993 Marc Andreesen was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne working on a project for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications ( NCSA) when he led a team that developed the graphic interface browser called Mosaic. The first pre-Beta version of Mosaic was released in February 1993. Version 1.0 of Mosaic was released in September 1993 for the Windows, Macintosh and the X Windows System platforms. Popularity of the graphical user interface (GUI) browser was immediate. People without computer expertise were able to use the graphical interface and just point and click to navigate the World Wide Web. The WWW grew quickly. Marc Andreesen left NCSA in March 1994. He and Jim Clark formed a company later known as Netscape Communication Corporation.

Author's Note:

Tim Berner's Lee is now the director of the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C.
The World Wide Web: a very short personal history


The World Wide Web 1997 Unleashed, Fourth Edition; John December; ©1997 Sams.net Publishing; Indianapolis, IN 46290 (USA)   http://www.mcp.com/ 
HTML 4.0 User's Resource, William H. Murray, Chris H. Pappas; ©1998, Prentice Hall PTR: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
A Simon & Schuster Co.; Upper Saddle River, N.J. 07458
HTML The Definitive Guide, Second Edition; Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy; ©O'Reilly Publishers; Cambridge (Published in the United States, March 1998)
Special Edition Using HTML 4, Fourth Edition; Mark Brown and Jerry Honeycutt; ©1998 by Que Corportation

ARPA: The Early Days of ARPA, Forerunner of the Internet
The World Wide Web: A very short personal history by Tim Berners-Lee, (written by request)
World Wide Web People (CERN)
This is the W3C list of people that contributed to the World Wide Web project, both at CERN, and after the WWW project became available to the public. This is an archived document from 1994 and is of historical interest.
CERN's Web History
Includes History and Growth
An Overview of the World Wide Web (CERN)
The Original Document of the Proposal
Tim Berners-Lee 1989
IETF Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) Working Group
A Layman's Guide to the Domain Naming System
A Short History of Internet Protocols at CERN
by Ben Segal, April 1995
Tracert Gateways by State and Backbone Maps
A Little History of the World Wide Web
(page from W3C server)
Biography of Tim Berners-Lee
The World Wide Web: Past, Present and Future
by Tim Berners-Lee, August 1996
The NCSA Mosaic Browser
A Short History of the Web
by Robert Cailliau (notes from his speech launching the European branch of the W3C, 2 November 1995)
D.M. Sendall, of CERN(    -1999)
The History of the Web (Duke.edu)
History of the World Wide Web
by Shahrooz Feizabadi
Article about Douglas Englebart
Douglas Englebart invented the computer mouse in 1965. This article is about Mr. Englebart and the invention of the mouse. (Photo included)
"As We May Think"
by Vannevar Bush, 1945
The History of Computers

Reciprocal Links - History of the Web



Updated 04 February 2009
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