For the 20th anniversary of CERN making Web technology available to anyone royalty-free, the European science lab has restored the very first website to its original location. Could today’s search engines of Google and Bing, which didn’t exist when the site was first posted, find it now? Time for a test. The answer turns out to be tricky.
Searching For The Page By URL
The easiest test was to see which of them had the page listed by searching for it by its URL, which is:
It looks like this, by the way:
Google found it when I searched for its URL:
Bing did not:
End of test! Google lists the page, has it included in its collection of billions of pages across the Web that were all born from it, while Bing does not.
Searching The Way People Really Search
Most people who are looking for the first-ever webpage wouldn’t do so using the URL, however, especially when that URL hadn’t even worked for over 20 years, until a few days ago.
My assumption is that most people seeking it would do a search for something like “first web page” or “first ever web page.” To test this, I started typing “first web…” into both Google and Bing, to see what they suggested. Those suggestions come from the most popular searches that people actually do.
I got this back:
As it turns out, people seem to be seeking the page by searching for terms like:
- first website
- first website ever
- first website ever made
Finding The First-Ever Website
I did a search for “first website,” and here, some might argue that Bing wins. This is what I got from Google:
The arrow points at the info.cern.ch page, which makes sense. CERN had been redirecting the URL for the first website to the info.cern.ch site for years, until it changed that yesterday, according to a CERN blog post that explains more.
But, CERN’s info site isn’t the first-ever website. It leads to it now, yes. But, it’s not the actually first website. Now consider Bing:
Bing lists the info.cern.ch site, just as Google does. But further down, it also lists a copy of the first-ever website, a copy that’s been located off CERN until this time.
That copy is located here:
It’s hosted by the W3C, an international group that took over leadership of the World Wide Web’s development after its origins with CERN. That copy is actually what CERN used for its restoration project.
If you are trying to find the actual first-ever website, using those words, Bing’s actually pointing to it better than Google. It’s not pointing you to it at the restored location, but neither does Google. At least, Bing gets you to an exact copy of the first-ever page, where it has long been archived.
Stand By For Change
This is likely to change in the near future. For one thing, CERN now links to the first-ever website using those exact words, like this:
Having those words in the anchor text — in the link — is a very powerful link signal to both Google and Bing that the page being linked to should rank for those terms, when it happens from an influential site like CERN.
In addition, as news stories about the restoration project begin to disappear, that will give a greater chance for the actual page to start moving into Google’s top results.
So, stayed tuned. And while you’re waiting, you can learn more about the origins of the WWW from CERN’s information site about the web, its page about the restoration of the first website and from the W3C’s A Little History of the World Wide Web.