Microsoft reflects on its website’s 20-year history

Screenshot of a retro Microsoft website, as it appeared in 1994.

Today, Microsoft shared an archived version of its website as it appeared in 1994, at the dawn of the web as we know it today. The page features an unformatted headline welcoming visitors to the company’s “World Wide Web Server,” and features a space-themed image menu that provided links to many of the company’s products and services. The links have been updated to direct modern visitors to Wikipedia pages explaining these 20-year-old products, and a line suggesting that users whose “browser doesn’t support images” use a “text menu” instead, underscoring the massive changes in web browser capabilities since then.

Besides providing a bit of “Throwback Thursday” nostalgia, Microsoft’s page demonstrates the growth and evolution of the web in just two decades. Visitors to the site in those days likely would have been using Mosaic, the world’s first graphical web browser. Mosaic is remembered for establishing many of the browser user interface practices that its modern descendants like Google Chrome and Safari still employ today, like address bars and back buttons, and went on to evolve into the popular Netscape Navigator in the mid–90s. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s longstanding internet browser offering, wasn’t even released until 1995.

The web continues to grow in terms of both scale and capability, offering new web applications and communication tools that would be unfathomable to the designers of Microsoft’s 1994 site. The site is a great reminder of the progress that web developers have made in the past 20 years, and gives a sense of context as we begin to imagine the next 20.