On April 30, 1993, CERN -- the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- announced that it was putting a piece of software developed by one of its researchers, Tim Berners-Lee, into the public domain. That software was a "global computer networked information system" called the World Wide Web
, and CERN's decision meant that anyone, anywhere, could run a website and do anything with it. From a report: While the proto-internet dates back to the 1960s, the World Wide Web as we know it had been invented four year earlier in 1989 by CERN employee Tim Berners-Lee. The internet at that point was growing in popularity among academic circles but still had limited mainstream utility. Scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf had developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which allowed for easier transfer of information. But there was the fundamental problem of how to organize all that information.
In the late 80s, Berners-Lee suggested a web-like system of mangement, tied together by a series of what he called hyperlinks. In a proposal, Berners-Lee asked CERN management to "imagine, then, the references in this document all being associated with the network address of the thing to which they referred, so that while reading this document you could skip to them with a click of the mouse."
Four years later, the project was still growing. In January 1993, the first major web browser, known as MOSAIC, was released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While there was a free version of MOSAIC, for-profit software companies purchased nonexclusive licenses to sell and support it. Licensing MOSAIC at the time cost $100,000 plus $5 each for any number of copies.