The Web Browser Turns 20

December 24th, 2010 by Benj Edwards

20 Years of the Web Browser - Web Browsers through the Ages

The first version of the first web browser ever — Tim Berners-Lee’s WorldWideWeb — carried with it a date of 12/25/1990. That’s 20 years ago tomorrow.

Most people won’t notice this anniversary, however, because CERN decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the WWW last year. Why’d they do that? Well, 1989 is when Berners-Lee first conceived of the WWW and wrote about the idea in a document to his supervisor. 1990, however, is when the web actually went live. Happy 20th birthday, WWW!

I emailed Berners-Lee to ask him about the original release date of WorldWideWeb (a browser only available only for the NeXT platform, by the way), and he responded with the truth behind the Christmas release date:

I wrote the web browser between September and mid-November 1990. I had to stop work because (a) CERN was closed for the Christmas break (around the 13th maybe) and (b) a first child was due Dec 24. So though the software version was wrapped some time well before Christmas. I labeled it version 901225 to be a memorable version number!

So there you have it from the inventor of the Web himself.

In honor of this occasion, I put together a slideshow of “Web Browsers Through the Ages” for PC World. I hope you enjoy it.

7 Responses to “The Web Browser Turns 20”

  1. SirPaul Says:

    Wow. So there’s ANOTHER reason to celebrate tomorrow. Awesome.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. arlandi Says:

    http://WWW... if you take all the porn aside, this must be one of the greatest invention of the 20th century!

  3. lilimist Says:

    Happy browser day, then 😀 Thanks for another great nostalgia-inducing article. Just one tiny nitpick, though: IE 5 for Mac was actually released in 2000, not 2001. I was working as a coder at a primarily Mac house at the time, plus I had a Rev B 1st gen iMac at home. It was an important browser for us pre-OS X Mac users as not only was it the first fully CSS compliant browser, it also (finally) gave IE-using Mac users full use of Javascript as well!

    Yeah, there’s always gotta be (at least one) nitpicking nerd in the room 😛

    Anyway, hope you had a great Christmas, Benj!

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    I did have a great Christmas, lilimist. Thanks. And thanks for your comments. Looking back over my notes, I think I put 2001 in there because that was the date of the version shown in the screenshot. I know IE5 for Mac predates that, however, because I recall using an early version of it in OS X Beta that was released in 2000. So hey, +/- 1 year isn’t too bad of a typo. 🙂

  5. Geoff V. Says:

    In the early 90s Netscape, under contract from the Department of Defense, developed the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol (SSL). SSL gave the world a way to securely transmit information over unsecure data lines. Today, the majority of all commerce transactions are transferred at some point over public telecommunication networks. The scale and scope of this development cannot be over-stated.

    On Christmas Eve, I learned that my dad was the Government program manager for the development of SSL. It was his input that ensured SSL would be available for all users of the Internet, not just for Government communications. Many voices at the Pentagon believed that “the public” should not have access to such as secure form of data transmission.

    My dad has stage 4 cancer and does not have long to live. The next time you buy something online or check your bank account from your phone, I ask that you give a silent thank you to a man who made that technology possible.

  6. Benj Edwards Says:

    That’s Awesome, Geoff (the part about your dad being involved with the creation of SSL). Please give him my best regards and thanks for helping all of Internet-kind via SSL.

  7. DNA Says:

    Great story Geoff. Please tell him someone does appreciate the benefits of SSL and wanted to say Thanks.

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