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Web 25

Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web


Edited By Niels Brügger

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Web. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Web has played an important role in the development of the Internet as well as in the development of most societies at large, from its early grey and blue webpages introducing the hyperlink for a wider public, to today’s multifacted uses of the Web as an integrated part of our daily lives.

This is the first book to look back at 25 years of Web evolution, and it tells some of the histories about how the Web was born and has developed. It takes the reader on an exciting time travel journey to learn more about the prehistory of the hyperlink, the birth of the Web, the spread of the early Web, and the Web’s introduction to the general public in mainstream media. Furthermore, case studies of blogs, literature, and traditional media going online are presented alongside methodological reflections on how the past Web can be studied, as well as accounts of how one of the most important source types of our time is provided, namely the archived Web.

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web is a must-read
for anyone interested in how our online present has been shaped by the past.

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Chapter Three: The web’s first ‘Killer App’: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s World Wide Web site 1991–1993 (Jean Marie Deken)


chapter three

The web’s first ‘Killer App’

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s World Wide Web site 1991–1993

Jean Marie Deken


In the late 1960s, high energy physicists had an unusual problem: with Federal funding for physics research flowing into laboratories around the world, and experimental results proliferating at an ever-increasing rate, scientists now faced a log-jam in communicating and analyzing theories and experimental results.1 In 1968, W. K. H. ‘Pief’ Panofsky, director of the two-year old Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC),2 along with Art Rosenfeld of the venerable Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, initiated an effort to address this vexing problem.

Panofsky, newly elected chairman of the Division of Particles and Fields (DPF) of the American Physical Society (APS) and newly elected Division Secretary Rosenfeld formed an alliance with three SLAC librarians—Louise Addis, Bob Gex and Rita Taylor. Together they would address the communications gridlock of accessing hardcopy pre-publication draft papers, or ‘preprints’ in the field of particle physics. This small group met headlong the insistent demands of the worldwide high energy physics community for near instantaneous access to the field’s preprints, would be instrumental not only in the creation of the first world wide website in North American, but would also lead to the ‘killer app,’ (T. Berners-Lee, personal communication, April 11, 1997) that helped ignite the spread of the web beyond the boundaries of high-energy/particle physics.

The confluence of the group’s timing,...

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