The birth of the web

Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.

The first website at CERN - and in the world - was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee's NeXT computer. The website described the basic features of the web; how to access other people's documents and how to set up your own server. The NeXT machine - the original web server - is still at CERN. As part of the project to restore the first website, in 2013 CERN reinstated the world's first website to its original address.

On 30 April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. CERN made the next release available with an open licence, as a more sure way to maximise its dissemination. Through these actions, making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish.

First web page screenshot

The first website

Discover the World Wide Web’s humble beginnings with this earliest incarnation

Browse the first website

Programmers work together during a 'hack' event

Restoring the first website

The web team at CERN are working to preserve some of the digital assets that are associated with the birth of the web

Read about the restoration project

A screenshot of the line-mode browser simulation

The line-mode browser

The line-mode browser, launched in 1992, was the first readily accessible browser for the World Wide Web

Launch the simulator or read about how the simulator was developed

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Featured updates on this topic

23 Aug 2016 – With people celebrating “Internaut day” on 23 August to mark the World Wide Web’s creation, CERN explores its history

30 Apr 2013 – On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web technology available on a royalty free basis, allowing the web to flourish


26 Oct 2017 – Twenty years ago, in 1997, CERN set up a reinforced policy and team to support its knowledge- and technology-transfer activities

12 Mar 2014 – In March 1989 Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal to develop a radical new way of linking and sharing information: the World Wide Web

19 Sep 2013 – Twelve talented web developers have travelled to CERN from all over the world to recreate a piece of web history: the line-mode browser

6 Jun 2013 – CERN is organizing a two-day coding event to recreate the line-mode browser

18 Mar 2013 – The inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering went to five engineers whose work led to the internet and the World Wide Web

20 Dec 2012 – Twenty-one years ago this month, physicists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) installed the first web server outside of Europe