The World Wide Web, 1991 to 1995 - is any of it archived anywhere?
July 24, 2017 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Yes, the Internet Archive contains some (not all) web content from 1996 onwards and is useful. But searches for any archives containing the interesting and quite busy first five years of the web before that draw up a blank. Are there any such archives? If only specialist ones exist, are there any covering websites in the library sector, or UK academia?
posted by Wordshore to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Internet Archive was founded by Brewster Kahle in May 1996

According to the Wikipedia article on Usenet:
Web-based archiving of Usenet posts began in 1995 at Deja News with a very large, searchable database. In 2001, this database was acquired by Google.[85]

Google Groups hosts an archive of Usenet posts dating back to May 1981.

posted by blob at 10:50 AM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

as someone that was around for those early days, the internet was still focused mostly on usenet groups and majordomo mailing lists.

lots of websites started popping up with geocities in 1994. there's a very difficult to browse archive at
posted by noloveforned at 12:38 PM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, Mosaic was released for non-mainframe computers in mid-to-late 1993. It was the first well-known graphical web browser. Usenet was obviously part of the Internet, but I'm not sure it's accurate to call it part of the web. I believe that in 1992 there were something like 25(?) websites altogether. There was a time you could maintain website lists by hand.
posted by praemunire at 1:05 PM on July 24, 2017

I'd hardly describe the Web from '91-'95 as "quite busy". As noloveforned says things were focused on GOPHER, BBSs, Usenet, etc. Even CompuServe was more active than the Web at that point. I built my first webpage in '95 and Oregon St. Univ. was the only ISP available in the area. You might see what you can find archived of Justin Hall's Swarthmore pages.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2017

AltaVista almost certainly had a Web archive dating from its launch in 1995. I don't think anyone ever made this archive accessible to anyone. I suspect any assets it has are owned by Yahoo, now part of Verizon. (Google kept archives of its early web crawls, but those won't go back before 1998.)

The archive of Usenet that Google Groups has pre-DejaNews is largely based on Gene Spafford's Usenet archives. Those have been readily available for download in the past, but I can't put my hands on a copy right now. Google Groups' interface to them is still working.

The Archie search engine may have spawned an archive of the metadata of public FTP servers going back to 1990. But I don't think it'd have the contents of the files, just their names. Similarly Veronica must have had such a record for Gopher (to 1992), but again not sure whether it's in accessible form now.

The good folks at would have an authoritative answer for you.
posted by Nelson at 3:17 PM on July 24, 2017

There's the first website:
posted by at at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2017

I first got onto the internet in 1994, and there was practically nothing on the World Wide Web. Maybe 1994 was about the time people started hearing that "the Internet" was a thing they could do, and a couple of places were starting to create a web site because they had heard maybe it was a good idea, but...the content was nil. (There was one company's web page I saw - and it was some manufacturing business, like they made random widgets or something - and their web site was just a bullet-point list of instructions about how do do effective web searches.)

UUSENET was the hotness back then, rather than the web.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 PM on July 24, 2017

[Folks, OP is looking for specifically web archives. If you don't know of one, it's ok to just pass the question by.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:13 PM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not an archive, but the Digital Archaeology project attempts to show websites on the hardware and software that existed at the time. They do pre-95 sites. (Really annoyed I only found out about their recent exhibition after it happened).

The British Library web archive (nothing pre-1995 as far as I can see) led me to the International Internet Preservation Consortium, maybe one of their members?
posted by Helga-woo at 12:56 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came across this call out for a Museum of London project to archive the early web today.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:52 PM on November 10, 2017

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