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CERN designers are celebrating the web’s 30th birthday by rebuilding it

You can now experience how your favorite websites would look on the very first internet browser–right down to the fonts.

CERN designers are celebrating the web’s 30th birthday by rebuilding it
[Screenshot: CERN]

March 2019 marks the 30-year anniversary of the WorldWideWeb–the very first version of the internet network we all use today. To celebrate, designers and developers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) decided to re-create what the WorldWideWeb looked like in this very early form, but within a modern browser so the rest of us can experience it.

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Thirty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau at CERN wrote a paper called “Information Management” that started it all. About a year later, Berners-Lee had created an application for a networked browser interface that he called the WorldWideWeb. Back then, it was a lot harder to go to a URL: you had to start in the menu, click “open from full document reference,” and then hand-type the address you were interested in to pull up the document on a computer somewhere in the network.

[Screenshot: CERN]

The new version makes you do the same thing, but it’ll also reformat any contemporary website to show you what it would have looked like 30 years ago. The simulator will pull up that website with just the text and the links–since that’s all that was available at the time. For instance, when you pull up https://www.fastcompany.com, you get a long list of our sections and links to our stories, with no formatting, design, or images in sight.

For the designers behind the project, re-creating the World Wide Web meant tracking down the earliest source code that’s still available (which is from the early ’90s), emulating the browsing experience and UX design of the early web, and even designing modern fonts that would look like clusters of pixels, just as they were back in the day.

But you can do more than browse: “At its heart, WorldWideWeb is a word processor …but with links,” write the designers. “And just as you can use a word processor purely for reading documents, the real fun comes when you write your own.” They built that functionality into the re-created web too, so you can create new documents, link them, and edit them (even though it’s far from user-friendly).

Try it out here.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable

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