The Psychology of Web Design
On 6 August 1991 in a dimly lit, air-conditioned back room of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), a little NeXT workstation affectionately named ‘Primo II’ blinked away in silence, a tattered paper sticker on the front displaying the warning, “This machine is a server: DO NOT POWER DOWN”
On 6 August 1991 in a dimly lit, air-conditioned back room of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), a little NeXT workstation affectionately named ‘Primo II’ blinked away in silence, a tattered paper sticker on the front displaying the warning, “This machine is a server: DO NOT POWER DOWN”.
It hosted http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html where in bold, black lettering, the site told anyone interested exactly what it was about. “The World Wide Web (W3) is a wide-area hypermedia information-retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents. Everything there is online about W3 is linked directly or indirectly to this document.” This was the world’s first website. 11 years previously, physicist Tim Berners-Lee had been working on a project called Enquire, a prototype system that used the concept of hypertext to allow the sharing and updating of information among CERN’s researchers. At this point the internet had become a haven for scientists and academics alike, and by 1989 CERN had become the largest internet node in Europe.
Berners-Lee, by this time a fellow of the organisation, wrote a paper entitled Information Management: A Proposal, an attempt to persuade his managers that a global hypertext system akin to Enquire was in CERN’s interest. It suggested the theory that a web of notes with linkable references could be placed on top of existing computer networks to facilitate remotely accessible ‘linked information systems’. A year later it was approved, and Berners-Lee went about coding the first web browser/editor – aptly named ‘World Wide Web’ – and the first server, httpd (HyperText Transfer Protocol daemon), both of which ran on NeXT systems.
The problem, however, was that NeXT systems were far more advanced than general computing equipment available at the time, thus a much less sophisticated version of the browser software was required. Come Spring the following year, Berners-Lee and his colleague Robert Cailliau were already testing a universal line mode browser able to run on any machine simply by typing commands, allowing anyone with an internet connection to access the web’s information resources. Three days after powering up Primo II with a copy of the server application, he posted an article to the newsgroup alt.hypertext with a short summary of the web and how internet users could take part. “The WWW world consists of documents and links. Indexes are special documents that, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another ‘virtual’ document containing links to the documents found. To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse).” The link was born.