Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999 : All Tech Considered Found in our archives: an Internet-themed remake of West Side Story from the dot-com bubble era. It begins with Bill Gates and features the sound of a modem but isn't as obsolete as you might expect.
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Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999

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Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999

Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/491477068/491848150" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Our world shifted 25 years ago this month with a milestone in the development of the Internet. In August 1991, a British computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee posted this announcement online about something that he'd been working on - subject, World Wide Web, summary...

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Quote, "the WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system."

SIEGEL: With his message, Berners-Lee was beginning to introduce the World Wide Web to the world. A version had been operating internally for about a year at the CERN facility in Switzerland.

SHAPIRO: Thinking about this moment sent us back to NPR's archives to check out how we covered the early days of the World Wide Web. We found this piece from June 6, 1995, as the web was beginning to explode.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

NOAH ADAMS, BYLINE: There's been a lot of talk about webs over the past year and a half. The part of the Internet known as the World Wide Web has been growing at a phenomenal pace.

SHAPIRO: And at this point, Robert, you jumped in to explain what your co-host Noah Adams was referring to there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHVIED BROADCAST)

SIEGEL: The Web, abbreviated it's WWW, is the multimedia part of the Internet where you can look at still pictures or video and listen to music all on a modem-equipped PC.

SHAPIRO: You didn't mention cat videos, but otherwise very good, I would say.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) I had no idea what I was saying. Although it's hard to believe this now, the World Wide Web and the whole idea of websites was still blossoming in 1995. But the potential for growth was underlined that year by our technology reporter John McChesney.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JOHN MCCHESNEY, BYLINE: Right now no one is entirely certain just how many individuals or businesses have set up home pages on the web. According to Sun Microsystems, which sells most of the computers used as web servers, the total number of websites is around 30,000, and that number is doubling every two months.

SHAPIRO: In 1995, that was an impressive total. Today, there are a billion websites, according to The Atlantic. Here at NPR, of course, we have mobile apps, streaming, live video. Then, we had radio instructions for how to click links on our website.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MCCHESNEY: Click yourself to National Public Radio's home page, for example. One of the blue lines next to the NPR logo says NPR audio on the net, Real Audio. Click on that line and you're off to a computer in Seattle run by Progressive Networks. On their home page, you download free their software called Real Audio. Then click on the NPR logo at the bottom of the page and up comes a menu of, say, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Click on one of the stories.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: Woof.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: By December of 1999, the World Wide Web had become enough of a thing to prompt a listener to write to the show suggesting we should write a musical called "Website Story."

SIEGEL: So we did, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "WEBSITE STORY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character, singing) Website, website, we'll build our own website. They'll click us and the dough will roll in.

SIEGEL: That's an excerpt from "Website Story," a long-forgotten musical performed by the NPR players in 1999.

SHAPIRO: Today, that computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee is involved in keeping the web open and affordable. And he has said the future of the Internet depends on ordinary people safeguarding it. Quote, "the first step is to answer one simple question, what kind of web do we want?"

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