Search is on for lost first draft of first Web page

Someone out there could have a missing copy of the world's first Web site from 1990. Have you checked your old floppies lately?

Tim Berners-Lee in 1994 at CERN. CERN

The first draft of the World Wide Web has gone missing, with perhaps one of the only copies of the very first Web site floating around the world's drawers or attics on a floppy disk somewhere.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first version of the very first Web page back in 1990 as a way for scientists to share information at CERN -- the European nuclear physics lab and particle accelerator site on the border of Switzerland and France. But it wasn't until 1992 that he actually saved a copy of that early CERN page.

"I took a copy of the entire Web site in a floppy disk on my machine so that I could demonstrate it locally just to show people what it was like. And I ended up keeping a copy of that floppy disk," Berners-Lee told NPR.

That copy from 1992 has been archived, and has been serving as the earliest official record we have of the Web's birth.

But Dan Noyes, who runs the CERN Web site today, is searching for that very first draft of the page from 1990. It's believed to be on an old optical disk drive that was lost at a conference in California all those years ago.

"It was such a beautiful object, that optical disk, that someone maybe has it on their coffee table or their bookshelf, and if we could find that, that'd be great," Noyes says.

Ask, and ye shall receive...almost.

Following the original NPR story on the missing file from 1990, University of North Carolina Professor Paul Jones tweeted a link to his copy of a version of the page that dates to 1991, even older than the current "official" version, that was put together by CERN's WWW team as a demonstration for the Hypertext '91 conference in San Antonio, Texas.

And just like that, posterity's digital exhibit of the history of the information age just expanded another year into the past.

Time to throw the crowdsourced search into high gear, Crave readers. Dig into your (or your parents') old hard drives, zip disks, Jaz drives, floppies, and tape backups and see if you just might happen to have a copy of the beginning of the World Wide Web on your hands. We all would sure love to see it.

 

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