Kids, Code, and Computer Science Magazine

Web Browser History

Chris Jobling on Flickr

While everybody on the planet has used a web browser, many people don't know about web browser history.

Web browsers are as important as the first printing presses because they make it possible for anyone to share and interact with knowledge and data. While other software is required — web servers, for example, browsers are what people use and know. Web servers work in the background, tucked away at computer data centers, unseen as they respond to browser requests.

If you have visited a website, you have used a web browser. The browser calls to an address on the internet, the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) you type into the browser, and software at the address sends back text, images, and other data for your browser to display.

Tim Berners-Lee programmed the first modern web browser, called WorldWideWeb, in 1990 and presented it in March 1991 to his colleagues at CERN, a European physics laboratory. Unlike earlier browsers from the 1980s, Berners-Lee also created software to solve the problem of how to store and deliver content to a browser.

Berners-Lee then worked with Jean-Francois Groff to rewrite his browser in the C programming language in 1991 and 1992. This browser, called libWWW, was a library of code to make it easy for others to create their own browsers. Nicola Pellow, also from CERN, then wrote code to make the web browser work on any device, including teletype machines. Others helped Pellow port his code to work on multiple operating systems so anyone could access the web. The web, in 1991 and 1992, was mostly the CERN phonebook. A number of students in 1992 built their own web browsers inspired by libWWW.


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