Clicking through the world’s first Web page today is like opening a time capsule from a vanished civilization. Posted by the European Organization for Nuclear Research around 1993, the landmark site, which was republished recently for the Web’s 20th anniversary, contains none of the hallmarks of the modern Internet. The typography is crude. The site lacks flashy graphics. Perhaps more tellingly, it has no pop-up ads, doesn’t pirate anybody else’s work, and contains no kitten photos, celebrity gossip, or pornography.
OMG! How did anyone ever live that way?
The republication of the original site is a tribute to a technological turning point. But it’s also a reminder that the Web turned out differently from what its creators intended. When the Web was hatched by Tim Berners-Lee and his research colleagues, it was an academic project to “give universal access to a large universe of documents.” One of the pages quaintly asked readers to alert the group to any “information on the Web which is out of date or misleading.”
By most measures, though, the Web has been far more revolutionary than anyone could have imagined. And while it’s easy to feel nostalgic for the earnest, stripped-down aesthetic of the first website, there’s no doubt the page would have looked better with a gallery of 17 cats that look like Donald Trump.