This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

How We Got Here


February 26, 1991:

Introduction of First Browser

  – WorldWideWeb

In the May 1970 issue of Popular Science magazine, Arthur C. Clarke predicted that satellites would someday “bring the accumulated knowledge of the world to your fingertips” using a console that would combine the functionality of the photocopier, telephone, television and a small computer, allowing data transfer and video conferencing around the globe. Welcome to the World Wide Web!

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal that referenced ENQUIRE, a database and software project he had built in 1980, and described a more elaborate information management system. TimLB

February 26, Sir Tim Berners-Lee showed everyone the first web browser and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor.  The Browsers’ name was called “WorldWideWeb”, but was later changed to “Nexus”.  Berners-Lee ran it on the NeXTSTEP platform and worked with not only the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), but the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Nexus is not in production anymore.

In 1989, CERN was the largest Internet node in Europe, and Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the Internet: “I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and domain name system ideas and—ta-da!—the World Wide Web.”

First Web Page

First Web Page

“Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN later. Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already. I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.”


Berners-Lee wrote his initial proposal in March 1989, and in 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau (with whom he shared the 1995 ACM Software System Award), produced a revision which was accepted by his manager, Mike Sendall.  He used similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system to create the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first Web browser. This also functioned as an editor (WorldWideWeb, running on the NeXTSTEP operating system), and the first Web server, CERN HTTPd (short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol daemon).


This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN (where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web).
The document resting on the keyboard is a copy of “Information Management: A Proposal,” which was Berners-Lee’s original proposal for the World Wide Web.
The partly peeled off label on the cube itself has the following text: “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”
Just below the keyboard (not shown) is a label which reads: “At the end of the 80s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web using this Next computer as the first Web server.”
The book is probably “Enquire Within upon Everything”, which TBL describes on page one of his book Weaving the Web as “a musty old book of Victorian advice I noticed as a child in my parents’ house outside London”.
This is a new upload by Coolcaesar of the original JPEG file on en:September 22, en:2008 directly to Commons in response to continued vandalism of the original.

Berners-Lee proposed different names for his new application: The Mine of Information and The Information Mesh were proposals. At the end WorldWideWeb was chosen, but later renamed to Nexus to avoid confusion between the World Wide Web and the web browser.

When it was written, WorldWideWeb was the only way to view the Web.

What’s the diff?

The terms Internet and World Wide Web are often used in everyday speech without much distinction. However, the Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks. In contrast, the Web is one of the services that runs on the Internet. It is a collection of text documents and other resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs, usually accessed by web browsers from web servers. In short, the Web can be thought of as an application “running” on the Internet.

Viewing a web page on the World Wide Web normally begins either by typing the URL of the page into a web browser or by following a hyperlink to that page or resource. The web browser then initiates a series of communication messages, behind the scenes, in order to fetch and display it. As an example, consider accessing a page with the URL

First, the browser resolves the server-name portion of the URL ( into an Internet Protocol address using the globally distributed database known as the Domain Name System (DNS); this lookup returns an IP address such as The browser then requests the resource by sending an HTTP request across the Internet to the computer at that particular address. It makes the request to a particular application port in the underlying Internet Protocol Suite so that the computer receiving the request can distinguish an HTTP request from other network protocols it may be servicing such as e-mail delivery; the HTTP protocol normally uses port 80. The content of the HTTP request can be as simple as the two lines of text.


Invention of the WWW


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