The World’s First Website

The World’s First Website May 4, 2013

Have you ever wondered what was the world’s first website? Apparently this is it. No graphics, only text, or rather hypertext. I think it dates from November, 1992. It’s really pretty incredible to think back on how quickly the internet has essentially taken over the world.

This was not long after I first went online. I didn’t do the BBS thing, but my first online venture was on Compuserve, when you had to use their program and dial into a local number with a modem (I think my first was a mere 300 baud). I quickly found the Compuserve religion forum, where I met several people that I’m still in at least occasional contact with, including Troy Britain and Henry Neufeld. Compuserve was not really part of the internet at the time, it was a separate intra-net, in essence, where you could only access what was on their servers.

Shortly after that, I got on Delphi and discovered the world of Archie and Gopher servers. Then the world wide web came about and the rest, as they say, is history. Not long after that, I started going on IRC, where I met lots and lots of people who are still a part of my life. First on EFnet, then on DALnet, which is where I first met several people who comment regularly on this blog, including Gretchen Koch and Sastra. I got involved with the TalkOrigins archive and met lots of other people I have long worked with on evolution/creationism issues.

Somewhere along the line, I also discovered IRC poker and the newsgroup, where I met lots of people who later became very well known in the poker world. I was a prop player for Party Poker in the very early days and later did some work for Poker Stars as well. I even had someone claim once that I was really Linda Johnson, a very famous poker player and former owner of Card Player magazine, in disguise. Those were weird times.

In only 20 years, we’ve gone from a few people having access to and understanding the internet to it being a constant presence in nearly everyone’s life. It’s really pretty incredible when you think about it. The internet has allowed us to build intentional communities that have nothing to do with one’s physical location. It’s allowed me to meet people I would never have otherwise met and it’s changed my life in so many ways that it’s impossible to document them all. We do live in interesting times.

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  • I remember using a text-mode browser way back then called Lynx. It was the only browser available on a dial-up BBS hosted by WETA in the Washington DC area. That’s how I met my wife!

  • Aliasalpha

    Aah interwebz nostalgia…

    I wasn’t in on it quite as early as some but I was using it in one form or another from 96, initially the dialup bbs style thing and then in 97 I got an actual internet connection. I remember running Mosaic initially and then switching to netscape navigator back when it was actually not a load of shite. Much the same can be said of my choice of search engine, remember when yahoo was decent?

  • Randomfactor

    I used Lynx too, and was active on Usenet discussion groups. Heck, in my day programmers began by typing “COPY CON PROGRAM.EXE” and went on from there.

    Now all you whippersnappers get off my LAN!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    I live in a university town, and occasionally get the chance to inform students that my email address (from circa 1980) is older than they are. This widens some eyes, but so far has somehow failed to elicit the gawp of admiration that I feel is only proper.

    Listen up, kids, if you think a dial-up connection is slow and requires too many settings, lemme tell ya about baud and parity settings on MacTerminal, and how H&R Block flubbed the dub with the developer of CompuServe Navigator …

  • Cuttlefish

    I did the BBS thing, on Quartz and Prism (and there was a third affiliated with those two, the name of which I forget), and the Cleveland virtual city BBS deally. I remember archie and gopher, and being glad not to need any of the eleventykajillion CD-ROMs that came on a daily basis offering access to this newfangled internet thing.

  • David C Brayton

    I remember thinking that I developed a unique and valuable skill when I learned to do do research in the library for debate. Well, library research is pretty much a thing of the past. Do they still publish the Reader’sGuidecto Periodical Literature?

  • caseloweraz

    I did do the BBS thing. I remember calling in to local systems using just a 300-baud modem and terminal. The text came in so slowly you could read it in real time. Not long after that I bought a real computer: A Morrow MD3. I wrote my own BBS software for that, using an early version of Turbo Pascal. That BBS was online for seven years (roughly October 1986 through June 1992), progressing from an 8088 machine to one that used an 80286. 10-MB hard drives! 3.5-inch floppies! 14,400-baud modems! Incredible!

    It really is difficult to believe the progress computing has made since those days.

    I was also active on Usenet, and I sampled almost every online service back then: AOL, BIX, CompuServe, GEnie, and some I can’t recall right now. Good times.

  • rbh3

    Ah, yes, the good old Compuserve days (I still remember my PPN), when men were men and so were many of the women!

  • dingojack

    64K memory?!? What the hell will I need 64K of memory for? That’s bigger than I’ll ever need!

    Ah yes the olden days.

    🙂 Dingo


    anyone else remember sitting absolutely still for 5 minutes (while your computer downloaded the latest Bröderbund space extravaganza from an audio cassette) so it wouldn’t come up with the ever helpful message ‘Checksum’?

  • laurentweppe

    In only 20 years, we’ve gone from a few people having access to and understanding the internet…

    … to a lot of people people having access to it and still so very few understanding how it works.

  • Michael Heath

    I got a nice warm-up for the Internet by working for Apple Computer from 1989 to 1992. They had an online service for their stakeholders called AppleLink. They also had a very user-friendly Ethernet network back then. User friendly because users could name devices, folders, and files, with a large latitude on proscribed naming conventions, e.g., “The B&W laser printer next to Heath’s cube”. That allowed people to intuitively find what they were seeking.

    The first two memorable encounters I had on the web were the following: I wanted a specification sheet for a particular type of electronic connector was easily able to find the manufacturer (Amp) and spec. sheet at the manufacturer’s portal. The second was using when I using a new version Microsoft Outlook, where the updated version allowed you to click on a contact address icon which opened a web page of a Mapquest map with a marker for that address. That was a big, “Wow!”.

    A fantasy I had as a kid was wanting to know everything about everything; I think because I sensed those attempting to indoctrinate into being a fundie were full of shit. Pre-Internet I used to consume encylopedias. The Internet was an enormous leap beyond that; to the point I find it quaint there were global warming denialists, creationists, and theists. It’s like they live in a different universe.

  • Michael Heath

    Me earlier, “User friendly because users could name devices, folders, and files, with a large latitude on proscribed naming conventions, e.g., “The B&W laser printer next to Heath’s cube”.”

    I just recalled we might have been limited to 32 spaces/characters.

  • left0ver1under

    Brett McCoy (#1)

    I remember using a text-mode browser way back then called Lynx. It was the only browser available on a dial-up BBS

    Whaddaya mean “way back when”? Lynx is still in active development, working on v2.8.8. A blind guy I know in Canada still uses it.

    For a lark, I tried viewing The First Page with Cello and Mosaic, but unsurprisingly they didn’t work. Pretty much any browser that’s pre-HTML3.2 won’t work now. But the page did work on Lynx 2.8.7 and Arachne 1.73.

    If Cello wasn’t the first graphic browser capable of showing images, it certainly was one of the earliest. For those who’ve never seen it, have a look. There’s no installer to muck up your system, and I ran it on Windows7 without having to change the file properties. To change URLs, you have to choose the “Jump” menu and then “Launch via URL”. Yes, it was that painful to use.

    You can find many old browsers here if you want to try them:

  • I was online in various ways since 1979… when I first got an internet connection and web browser working at home in 1992 (rather than compuserve, etc.) which was NOT a simple task at the time, I called my father over to see the web, which had maybe 5 pages at that time.

    I was telling him in excitement about how huge this was going to be… he, a 30+ year veteran programmer and system admin, shrugged and didn’t see the point of it all.

    I immediately started working on using HTML to serve our support network at Fisher-Price – the word intranet hadn’t even been coined yet, I don’t think…

    Converted some support docs over, with links to each other, etc.

    Couldn’t get anyone in management interested, or so I thought… when I gave up and quit later, I searched the network for juicy details before leaving, and found via memos from the President to the CEO that my managers etc. were planning on using my idea, but angling to make sure they got the credit and not me. In the memos they called it “the inter nets.”

    On my way out they panicked and asked if I would be willing to continue as a consultant.

    That was a funny time.

    If I had been smarter and greedier and more dishonest I probably could have made a lot of money.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    I’m still friends with the first person with whom I exchanged e-mail in real time, as opposed to the system whereby your local BBS uploaded the outgoing mail and downloaded the incoming at about 3 AM each day.

    I also remember the delightful names that printers on my company’s AppleTalk network had, my favorite being “Monte Hallway.”

  • I miss BBSing. Started on a C64 w/ 300 baud modem back around 1986. Met Ed years later on DALnet. I miss when the internet was just for elitist computer nerds. It was a much nicer and friendlier place back then. I have a phone that has more computational power than some of the servers my company was using as recently as 5 years ago. Oh the times they are a changin…

  • andrewkiener

    Anyone else still underscore spaces in file names when they’re typing fast?

  • robb

    i seriously doubt that is the first web page. i mean, c;mon, there aren’t any links to porn!

  • robb

    oh, i first started using computers circa 1977. our school had a dial up connection to Unisys. i think Unisys donated main frame time to local schools. anyway the terminal we used was a Decwriter. we used a rotary phone and an acoustically coupled modem to connect. we saved our BASIC programs on 1″ punched strips of paper. i learned to type “bang” very fast by playing Oregon Trail. lol.