What did the first Internet browser look like?

The world would not be what it is today without the internet. The connected world has made it possible for people to work for a company 10,000 miles away, facilitated friendships between people on opposite sides of the globe, and brought together nearly 4.54 billion people. with only a few milliseconds of delay.

But this innovation came from humble origins, and the first web browsers didn’t look like Chrome or Firefox Quantum. If you’ve ever wondered what the first internet browser looked like, you’ll be amazed.

The WorldWideWeb

The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, is an organization familiar to those with experience in web design and development. After all, the W3C is the organization that sets the standards for what a “proper” browsing experience 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 only at the time) web browser in existence. It was also the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor. WorldWideWeb did not keep 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 after the NeXTSTEP operating system. It lacks any of today’s simplified and user-friendly shortcuts. In fact, its interface is almost complicated. There are not many browser screenshots available, and the ones that can be found are difficult to decipher. Just look at one of the ones below.

It looks more like a text document than a web browser, but the grandparents of modern elements can be found if you look closely. For example, see the “Links” window. “Mark All” is set to “A,” similar to how the shortcut for “Select All” is now also “A.”

“Unlink” was set to “Z”, similar to how the “Undo” function is now “CTRL+Z”. At the top of the window, you can also see “Previous” and “Next” in the Navigation pane, setting the stage for the “Forward” and “Back” functions found in modern web browsers .

WorldWideWeb can render basic style sheets and can download any MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension) file type supported by the NeXT system. It wasn’t until much later that the WorldWideWeb browser was able to display images.

At the time, other browsers were built on the same original formula. The first browser that many people remember was Netscape Navigator in 1994, with 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 accessed the web. To do that, we have to look at BBS (a bulletin board system) and Usenet.


The original BBS was the forerunner of modern forums. Users can post requests, search for specific types of content, and interact with each other in near real-time. As BBS grows, some users may create chat rooms.

Of course, the original BBS was mostly used by computer enthusiasts, so the conversations were more technical – normal people didn’t have much use for the BBS system in those early days.

Like the modern internet, BBS also has darker sides. Some BBS’s are dedicated to cracked software and rogue software — in other words, stolen content. Although many BBS check uploaded files to make sure they don’t violate copyright laws. Users created dedicated areas similar to the modern Dark Web to share stolen content without interference.


The name Usenet is derived from “user network”. Usenet servers are more common and accessible than BBS systems because of their easier-to-use interfaces. Users can upload posts to specific groups called newsgroups. It was an early form of internet organization. For a similar modern example, see Reddit and its subreddits.

Usenet servers are not centrally managed, which makes them more like the wild west than BBS servers. Many common computer terms, including “spam” and “Frequently Asked Questions,” are derived from Usenet servers.

The Usenet server has long existed beyond the origins of the first internet browsers. In fact, they are more active today than ever because they provide a more secure and private way of communicating than most social media networks.

The internet came from humble origins, but no one can deny its influence today.

Did the early days of the Internet make a little more sense than now? What more do you want to know? Let us know in the comments below.

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