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A History of the Web in 100 Pages

In 2010 the BBC, in conjunction with the British Museum, produced a groundbreaking podcast series, A History of the World in 100 objects. Through 100 highly engaging episodes each focussing on an object from human history, they tell a story of humanity (central to the series is the idea that it is just one of countless possible tellings of our shared story).

I’ve been interested in the history of the Web for many years. I’ve been privileged to have been invited to CERN twice now to work on projects associated with the earliest days of the Web, and started my own project some years ago to interactively document the Web’s history, through major technology releases and cultural and intellectual milestones.

I’ve also long been keen to try and tell the story of the Web and its origins to an audience beyond the professionals for whom the Web is central to their working lives. About how it came together, how it evolved, why it succeeded. I’ve thought of writing a history, doing a Ph.D, even pitched a documentary series to a national broadcaster–who didn’t really see the appeal.

And then recently while listening to A History of the World in 100 objects, it occurred to me that that model might well work for telling the story of the Web–A History of the Web told through 100 Pages. By telling the story of 100 influential pages in the Web’s history (out of the now half a trillion pages archived by the wayback machine), might we tell a meaningful history of the Web?

It’s a work in progress, but the opportunity rose recently when the wonderful folks from the Web Stories conference asked me to speak, to start on the project of recording some of the stories of these pages. So here’s a bit of a prototype, the first 3 pages–only 97 to go!

Hope you might enjoy this short documentary, it was really well received!

I’d also love suggestions as to the pages you think should be part of the 100 most significant pages in Web History.

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Thoroughly enjoyed Web Directions — met some great people, heard some inspiring presenters and added a whole bunch of things to my to-do list.

Joel Roberts Web Developer