You can now re-visit the first web page ever — built 21 years ago — by directing your browser to the first ever web address.

On Monday, the files for the website were put back online at the first ever URL: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

"For many years, this URL has been dormant, inactive," wrote Dan Noyes, the web manager in the communications group of  Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), the European organization for nuclear research, where the world wide web was invented.

The web address now links to a page of black text on a white background, briefly describing the world wide web or "W3" project. The text includes hyperlinks to other documents, including an FAQ and web-related software.

Noyes wrote on the blog for CERN's the "Restoring the first website" project that the page is a 1992 copy dug up from the project's archives.

sm-250-first_web_server

The first web page was originally hosted on this NeXT workstation, shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN. (Wikimedia Commons)

"This may be the earliest copy that we can find, but we're going to keep looking for earlier ones," he said.

The re-launch of the ancient website marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of a CERN statement on April 30, 1993, making world wide web technology — including web server software, a basic browser and a library of code —  available on a royalty-free basis.

Other goals of the "restoring the first website" project include:

  • Trying to restore the names of machines hosting the site and their IP addresses to their original state.
  • Recreating the experience of using the original text-base browser, originally known as "WorldWideWeb" but later renamed Nexus.
  • Preserving the actual ones and zeros of the data.
  • Documenting the configuration of the original machines that hosted the web page and their hardware so they can also be preserved.

The idea for the world wide web was first proposed by British physicist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, while he worked at CERN, as a simple way for physicists in universities and institutes around the world to share information over the internet via linked documents.

Berners-Lee developed a working prototype web server and browser on a powerful computer made by NeXT inc., a company started by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that failed after just a few years.

The first web page was originally hosted on Berners-Lee's computer, which is still at CERN, but no longer online.

Before the world wide web, other protocols existed for transferring information over the internet, but the web quickly surpassed them in popularity.