WorldWideWeb: 18 years in the public domain

 Fckimages Cern Eighteen years ago today, CERN released the source code of WorldWideWeb -- the first Web browser and editor -- into the public domain. Tim Berners-Lee has some screen shots of the browser at his CERN page.
CERN's intention in this is to further compatibility, common practices and standards in networking and computer supported collaboration.
WorldWideWeb (Wikipedia, via Imaginary Foundation)


  1. It’s astonishing how one simple document has changed the history of the World, overall in a positive way.


  2. And yet even many of the better computer science departments in the U.S. still don’t have courses on how to program for the web.

  3. “CERN’s intention in this is to further compatibility, common practices and standards in networking and computer supported collaboration”… not to mention Free Porn!


  4. The very few examples of possible “damages” that are listed here underscores the fact that no one had any idea what this was going to turn into. I could just imagine some of the other things CERN would want to ensure they would not be liable for today…”in no event will CERN be liable for international boom-bust stock market cycles, random establishment of democracy, and/or complete and total removal of the expectation of privacy due to use of this code.”

    I wonder if the collapse of a tyrannical government due to popular rebellion falls under special, incidental, or consequential damages?

    1. To be pedantic, I should say, yes, this is about the browser and not the Web itself (or even the Internet), but I believe the W3 browser at the time was the only one (maybe not by ’93, not sure on history that early, I was 4 days shy of 10 when this document was released). I really do think that in its infancy, this whole networked connectedness via computers was just not entirely understood as far as its potential (I mean, c’mon, you really expect us to run out of address space with 32 bits, 32 whole bits?

      1. I got my first real computer a few months before this, used gopher and telnet and Mosaic 0.9beta over a dialup modem (56k was high-tech, for a while I only had 28k)

        Truthfully, the strength of networks at the time was greater in gopher (nested menus based on geography, mostly) and repeater-messageboards like FidoNet, which allowed widely divided BBSes all over the world to host international conversations. Took a bit for that to move to the triple-dub.

        As for real-time interaction, never mind IRC, do any other oldtimers remember LambdaMOO, and that damn cockatiel?

    2. @PlaneShaper: This is a standard BSD-style license. The damages clause is just part of the template. That doesn’t mean the team was anticipating any particular harm.

  5. It were understood from the beginning, http did for everybody what ftp, netnews, and so on did for nerds.

    Magnus Redin

  6. I went to school with Sir Berners-Lee’s daughter. She had no idea the importance of her father’s work. As such, she considered my excitement “creepy.”

  7. I looked at the screen shots. I remember the web in ’95 – grey background, times new roman. How are those screen shots?

    1. [quote]I remember the web in ’95[/quote] Not very well, apparently. It was almost all dial-up access certainly, but web pages had images, backgrounds, and a glorious lack of flashy advertisements. By ’95 it was pretty recognizable to any of today’s users.

  8. Those screenshoots, it is rare to see such clean and beautifully designed web pages today ;)

    Jokes aside. Gopherspace (Veronica+Gopher) was superior to WWW. Unfortunatly, sometime in 1995 people stopped putting up new documents in Gopherspace, and a year later documents and sites that already existed rapidly disappeared. However elegant and efficient, without content, a hyperlink-network is dead (as proven by The Microsoft Network (MSN), that never got any good content (or users) and died fast, MSN was horrible to use (no text support, bitmap image based), but if Microsoft had managed to lure content to it, it would perhaps still be alive).

    It was so much easier to find what you were looking for in Gopherspace, even at the time it was magnitudes larger then the World Wide Web. The impossibility to find what you wanted on the web lasted until 1999, when Google Search came along. Finding stuff on the web have never been as easy as in Gopherspace, though, and Google searches have already started to degrade in quality.

    And all those research papers and technical documentation you could find in Gopher space, without any pay-walls. Sigh, good times. Science is supposed to be open, today it hides behind pay-walls and can’t be scrutinised, except by people who can persuade their workplaces to pay for the papers and the lucky few that can afford to pay for them privately.

    PS. I used a Mosaic clone as my main web browser as late as 1996. The user interface in Netscape and later Microsoft Internet Explorer was (and is) horrible. I was forced to use Netscape and IE for a year before I was saved by Opera, a web browser very different from my beloved Mosaic, but still very good. Unfortunately, since then Opera have been netscapified and today all web browsers have clunky netscape-like user interfaces.

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