Yahoo!’s Mama

Yahoo is often considered to be the Web’s original directory. While the venerable site was certainly one of the first guides to the web, there were many others that preceded it.

Most of the early web directories were long lists of “what’s cool” or “what’s new” links created by surfers as they either randomly stumbled across sites, or heard about them via Usenet postings or email from friends. Remember, this was back in the days before search engines. Yahoo’s innovation was to organize its links into a categorized directory, making it easy to browse for web sites by subject.

But Yahoo, appearing in 1994, was by no means the first. One of the earliest web subject directories was developed by the people who created the web itself — and somewhat remarkably, it’s still online.

What were some of the prominent web sites in 1992? Bear in mind that there were fewer than 50 web servers in the world at this point, according to Tim Berners-Lee, who created the web.

Familiar names on CERN’s subject list include Project Gutenberg, the open archive of online books. The CIA’s World Fact Book was online, as were the Bible and Qur’an. The University of Minnesota offered weather information, and various sites featured scientific and technical documents.

Interestingly, a database of song lyrics was also listed, but even this early in the game this neo-Napster had apparently been shuttered due to copyright concerns.

CERN’s 1992 subject index of the web is maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium as part of its historical documents archive. Though you can still access the page, most of the links are broken. Nonetheless, the page provides a fascinating snapshot of what the web looked like nearly a decade ago, while still in its infancy.

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