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Happy 20th birthday, World Wide Web!

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The world's first web page

Bill Clinton had just taken office. The World Trade Center was recovering from a terrorist bombing in its parking structure. Women were finally allowed to fly warplanes. And the day-to-day habits of the free world was about to undergo a tectonic shift.

On April 30, 1993, the World Wide Web as we know it was officially birthed.

It all started when a team lead by physicist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (also known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research) released a piece of technology allowing anyone to build a web page without paying any sort of royalty. It was a transformative moment that forever changed the way we communicate, play and learn.

There were other ways to communicate on the Internet at the time. GOPHER, a system run by the University of Minnesota, was one of the most popular, but it charged for use. With the birth of the free Web, people flocked away from pay services.

And it was essential that no one person owned the technology. In an interview with the BBC, James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, noted that the team signed a document in 1993 ensuring the Web would be a free platform. Gillies calls it the “single most valuable document in the history of the World Wide Web."

The first Webpage wasn't much to look at: just a white screen with a simple graphic, words, and a few links. The page had a link called "What's out there?" to explain how to use the Web and offered a very basic search parameter, letting people find pages by subject (which included music, law, religion and literature) and type.

CERN turned it back on today to celebrate the occasion -- and it's being hammered by traffic from curious Web surfers.

As barebones as that first page was, it proved to be the framework for everything from Facebook and Farmville to Skype and Twitter. Of course, we here at Yahoo! are pretty grateful to CERN as well.

Today’s Web is a marvel in comparison. While Berners-Lee originally saw the Web -- or W3, as he called it -- as something to help physicists share information, it expanded far beyond that in a very short time period. Only two decades later, people can watch news unfold at their desks, play graphically intense games in their browsers, and, most importantly, watch as many cat videos as their eyes can handle.

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