How We Built the World Wide Web in Five Days

At the most recent edition of Fronteers Conference – a conference which I’ve been attending for over 10 yeras by now – Jeremy Keith & Remy Sharp did a two-person talk on their rebuild of the original WorldWideWeb application back in February.

Join (Je)Remy on a journey through time and space and code as they excavate the foundations of Tim Berners-Lee’s gloriously ambitious and hacky hypertext system that went on to conquer the world.

I really liked this talk. The two-person format worked remarkably well.

Browse the web like it’s 1990: CERN 2019 WorldWideWeb Rebuild

Figure: WorldWideWeb, with the homepage of loaded

Today the web turned 30. Perfect time to mention that back in February a small team of people have worked on a rebuild of the original WorldWideWeb application – the world’s first browser – which was used to access the web back then.

In December 1990, an application called WorldWideWeb was developed on a NeXT machine at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) just outside of Geneva. This program – WorldWideWeb — is the antecedent of most of what we consider or know of as “the web” today.

In February 2019, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the development of WorldWideWeb, a group of developers and designers convened at CERN to rebuild the original browser within a contemporary browser, allowing users around the world to experience the rather humble origins of this transformative technology.

Jeremy Keith, who was part of that team, has a nice writeup on their adventure and its result.

To me, this project has two very interesting parts:

  1. It’s recreated using web technologies, showing (some of) the power of what the web is capable of today.

  2. The application acts a litmus test to see whether your site is built in a timeless manner or not: If your site content can be consumed using WorldWideWeb, it means that a screen-reader, browsers with JS disabled, etc. will be able to read it too.

Nowadays I see a lot of sites that are built using a JS-first state of mind. The proven concept of Progressive Enhancement is nowhere to be found, and that’s sad. The fact that these sites don’t work in WorldWideWeb is a direct result from that, and that is – to me – a red flag.

The web is timeless, and so should the sites we build be. The fact that sites which I have built also are consumable in WorldWideWeb is something I take pride in.

WorldWideWeb →

A few tips on using WorldWideWeb:

  • Go to “Document” → “Open from full document reference” to open a URL
  • Links needed double clicking back then 😉