As hilarious as it may seem, this is actually the very first photograph that was ever posted to the web. And the story behind it is just as mind-boggling.


The subjects in the photo are members of a comedy band called the Cernettes, who are based at CERN (get it?). For those of you who aren't familiar, CERN is the laboratory near Geneva that gave birth to the World Wide Web almost two decades ago (and other achievements like studying how particles collide in order to determine how the first few milliseconds of the Universe’s existence would have been like).

So back to the comedy band. As reported by Abraham Riesman at Motherboard, it all began at a Cernettes concert on July 18, 1992. The band’s manager, Silvano de Gennaro, had snapped the photo backstage that he intended to use for the cover of their next CD. Here’s the original:


Soon after, Tim Berners-Lee approached de Gennaro for a guinea-pig image — a picture he could use to test his recent upgrades to the web. As Riesman reports:
Lucky for him, de Gennaro had been toying around with a scanned .gif version of the July 18th photo, using version one of Photoshop on his color Macintosh. The .gif format was only five years old at the time, but its efficient compression had made it the best way to edit color images without slowing PCs to a crawl.

“The web, back in ’92 and ’93, was exclusively used by physicists,” de Gennaro recalled. “I was like, ‘Why do you want to put the Cernettes on that? It’s only text!’ And he said, ‘No, it’s gonna be fun!’”

Berners-Lee handed the file off to Jean-François Groff, a programmer on the web project. He was only too happy to work with it.

The upload was simple and uneventful — uploads of anything on the early web were more like saving a word-processing doc than anything else, Groff recalled. It popped up on a page about musical acts at CERN.