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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 Four: Untangling the threads: Public discourse on the early web (Marguerite Barry)


chapter four

Untangling the threads

Public discourse on the early web

Marguerite Barry

If you’re interested in using the code, mail me. It’s very prototype, but available by anonymous FTP from It’s copyright CERN but free distribution and use is not normally a problem […]. The WWW project was started to allow high energy physicists to share data, news, and documentation. We are very interested in spreading the web to other areas, and having gateway servers for other data. Collaborators welcome!”1


When Tim Berners-Lee sent an email to the alt.hypertext newsgroup in August 1991, describing the ‘WWW project’, little did he expect it would later be regarded as marking the birth of the web.2 It was not a formal announcement of a major technological breakthrough, but just a reply to a query on work in progress, offering access for the first time to the hypertext community outside CERN to its experimental communication network. However, his informal language and collaborative spirit set the tone for how the web would subsequently be disseminated and received.

The description of a ‘very prototype’ project suggests an early iteration, a stage designed to study the feasibility of a technical process (Beaudoin-Lafon & Mackay, 2009). A request for expressions of interest is the logical next step in testing feasibility. But testing through “free distribution and use” rather than further internal iterations mirrors an unusual project goal of sharing data. The...

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