UK Web Focus

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Archive for December 9th, 2012

“It Was 20 Years Ago Today”

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 9 December 2012

On 9 December 1992 I saw the Web for the first time. As I described in a handbook entitled Running A World-Wide Web Service published in 1995:

[I] first came across the World-Wide Web (WWW) at a workshop on Internet tools organised by the Information Exchange Special Interest Group, University of Leeds on 9th December 1992. In January 1993 the Computing Service installed the CERN httpd server on its central Unix system – this was probably the first WWW service provided by a central service in the UK academic community.

The workshop included demonstrations of a number of Internet applications. The aim of the workshop, was to raise awareness of the importance of the Internet to support institutional research, teaching and marketing activities.

At the time I was familiar with GopherVeronicaWAIS and Archie but the Web was new to me. The applications were probably demonstrated on Silicon Graphics or possibly Sun workstations. The Web browser I saw was the Viola which was publicly released in May 1992.

A screenshot of Viola running under X-Windows is illustrated. It should be noted, however, that this image shows a later release of the browser since, in December 1992, the Web was text-only with inline images only becoming available with the release of the NCSA Mosaic browser.

Despite its text-only origins the potential of the Web was apparent to me from the first time I saw it. The ability to have have links within a document, as opposed to Gopher which provided only links from menu items, was a clear strength of the application as was the integration with a range of existing Internet services, such as FTP and Gopher, as well as links with a variety of backend services, such as directory applications which were already starting to be integrated with the Web.

At that time I was the Information Officer in the University Computing Service and was looking for a tool which could be used to provide access to online information provided by the Computing Service as well as, I hoped, form the basis of a Campus Wide Information Service (CWIS).

A small number of Universities were at that time starting to explore the potential of Gopher to provide a CWIS and that was the technology I expected would be used at Leeds. But on 9 December 1992 I saw the Web for this first time and was convinced that I have seen a new vision of the future. It was twenty years ago today, but it’s another set of Beatles lyrics which are more appropriate:

Roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away,
Waiting to take you away.

When were you taken away by the Web?


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