The 14th May 1991 marked the initial release of the Line-Mode Browser (LMB), the second ever browser to be developed, which was authored by Tim Berners-Lee, Henrik Frystyk Nielsen and Nicola Pellow.
LMB’s release followed the success of Tim Berners-Lee’s first browser WorldWideWeb, which was later renamed Nexus to avoid confusion, which at the time provided the only means possible to view the web. Work was focused to develop a new browser that could be used on a wide range of computers allowing for universal accessibility of the web, as opposed to its predecessor which only worked with NeXT operating systems.
The simplicity of the LMB software featured a basic interface that only allowed for text input and display, with the cross platform codebase ensuring that installation could be achieved on a vast range of machines and operating systems including Unix, Windows, Mac OS, Linux and IBM RS6000 amongst others. Features of the browser also included support for a number of protocols including FTP, HTTP, NNTP and WAIS. LMB achieved the goal of enabling far greater accessibility to all and in turn played a crucial role in the success of the web, later followed by the development of browsers such Agora, Mosaic and Lynx.
In 2013 a team at CERN set about the task of rebuilding the line mode browser, enabling us to revisit these early innovations in web development. The team were successful in the creation of their line mode browser simulator, allowing access to the very first page that ever appeared on the web. Incredibly this webpage that is over 20 years ago will still work with modern browsers, and with the backward compatibility of HTML, the line mode browser is also able to be used to display modern webpages although minus images and with changes to format.
For a chance to revisit the first ever website and line-mode browser simulator, follow this link to the CERN Website, and experience these early milestones in web history.