Without the Internet, the world would not be what it is today. The connected world allowed people to work for a company 10,000 miles away, made friendships between people from opposite sides of the globe, and connected nearly 4.54 billion people together with a delay of just a few milliseconds.
But this creation came from humble people, and the first web browsers were not like Chrome or Firefox Quantum. If you’ve ever wondered what the first internet browser looked like, you are in for a surprise.
The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, is well known to those with a background in web design and development. After all, the W3C is the organization that sets the standards for what â€œproperâ€ web browsing should be.
The founder of the organization, Tim Berners-Lee, is also responsible for creating the first internet browser.
In 1990, Berners-Lee launched The WorldWideWeb, the first (and at the time the only) web browser in existence. It was also the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, pronounced Wizziwig) HTML editor. WorldWideWeb did not retain its name for long and was changed to Nexus shortly after launch to avoid confusion between the browser and the World Wide Web or the Internet.
The WorldWideWeb browser is modeled on the NeXTSTEP operating system. It lacked any of the simplifications and convenient shortcuts that users are familiar with today. In fact, its interface was almost cryptic. There are not many browser screenshots available, and those that can be found are difficult to decipher. Take a look at the picture below.
It looks more like a text document than a web browser, but if you look closely, you can find the progenitors of modern elements. For example, take a look at the Links window. “Check All” is set to “A”, much like the shortcut for “Select All” is today also referred to as “A.”
Undo is set to Z, just like the modern Undo feature is CTRL + Z. At the top of the window, you can also see “Previous” and “Next” in the navigation bar, which sets the stage for the Forward and Back features that are visible in modern web browsers.
WorldWideWeb can display basic style sheets and load any type of MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) supported by the NeXT system. Only later did the WorldWideWeb browser get the ability to display images.
By then, other browsers had emerged based on the same original formula. The first browser many people remember was Netscape Navigator in 1994, and the famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Internet Explorer debuted in 1995.
Of course, WorldWideWeb was the first internet browser, but not the first way people access the internet. For that we need to look at BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) and Usenet.
Early BBSs were the forerunners of modern forums. Users could post queries, search for specific types of content, and interact with each other in near real time. As BBS grew, some users were able to create chats.
Of course, early BBSs were used primarily by computer enthusiasts, so conversations took on a more technical character – the average person used little BBS in those early days.
As with the Internet today, the BBS had dark sides. Some BBSs were designed for hacked software and phreaking – in other words, stolen content. Although many BBSs checked the uploaded files to make sure copyright laws were not violated. Users have created special areas, similar to the modern Dark Web, for the smooth sharing of stolen content.
The name Usenet comes from the “user network”. Usenet servers were more widely available than BBS systems due to their easier-to-use interface. Users could upload posts to specific groups called newsgroups. This was the earliest form of internet organization. A similar modern example can be found on Reddit and its subreddits.
Usenet servers were not centrally managed, which made them look more like the Wild West than BBS servers. Many common computer terms, including “spam” and “frequently asked questions”, owe their origin to Usenet servers.
Usenet servers still exist long before the first Internet browsers. In fact, they are more active today than ever before because they provide a safer and more private way to communicate than most social networks.
The Internet originated from ordinary people, but today no one can deny its influence.
Have the early days of the Internet made a little more sense today? What would you like to know more about? Let us know in the comments below.