Metro

Boston launched its first website two decades ago

What the homepage of the City of Boston's website looked like, as seen in a 1996 newsletter announcing the launch of the City's official website.
City of Boston
What the homepage of the City of Boston's website looked like, as seen in a 1996 newsletter announcing the launch of the City's official website.

If you thought the most recent version of the City of Boston’s website was clunky, step back in time two decades.

On Friday, Lauren Lockwood, the city’s chief digital officer, circulated a blast from Boston’s digital past: an image of the city’s first-ever website.

Someone from the Department of Innovation and Technology had unearthed an internal City Hall newsletter announcing, “City of Boston Web Site on the Internet.” They included the newsletter, which featured a screen grab of the website’s original homepage, in a post on the department’s blog.

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“We had to share,” read the post, which Lockwood tweeted.

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The late Mayor Thomas M. Menino hosted a ceremony to officially launch the first website on Dec. 29, 1995, at a senior center complex in West Roxbury.

At the unveiling, Menino donated to the seniors a brand-new computer “complete with Internet connectivity.”

The original website offered few resources back then, but was still considered ahead of the curve. Information on the site included a database of property values; an events calendar; links to city services; and ways to contact the City Council and mayor.

On the whole, not a bad effort, considering that the World Wide Web had only been invented in 1989.

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Lockwood said her team wanted to “pay homage” to the website as they work on a brand-new one. Last week, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office unveiled a test version of an easier-to-use website — a precursor to a more user-friendly site set to launch this year.

As officials from Walsh’s office continue upgrades to the landing page for constituent services, they felt it important to reflect on the days of yore, when websites relied on bland images and primitive text.

Even the old URL was worse than today’s. It was http://www.ci.boston.ma.us” in 1995. Now it’s simply “Boston.gov.”

“It’s helpful to see how far we’ve come, and also how much hasn’t changed,” the blog post said. “Twenty years later, we’re still trying to help our constituents get the information they need in the easiest way possible. It’s a top priority for Mayor Martin Walsh and the City as we continue to develop Boston.gov.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.