This is the first photo that was ever posted to the web, beginning a long tradition of poorly Photoshop'd images and brightly coloured text floating above people's heads now found all over the Internet. Next Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of that photo making its appearance on the web. This is the story of how it got there.
The photo depicts the all-female parody group Les Horribles Cernettes, four women who worked (or who were significant others of workers) at CERN and performed science-comedy songs in their spare time. The photo was taken by their manager and CERN IT developer, Silvano de Gennaro, prior to a concert by the ladies on July 18, 1992.
Motherboard reports that de Gennaro was friends with Tim Berners-Lee, one of the scientists who helped invent the web and make it available to the public in 1991. Both members of CERN's dramatic society, Berners-Lee worked near de Gennaro and when the time came for a photo file to be tested out on the web, Berners-Lee thought a picture of the European physics community's biggest musical sensation would fit the bill.
De Gennaro had been editing the photo using the first version of Photoshop when Berners-Lee approached him for a test photo. Small images and text dominated the web at that time, but Berners-Lee and his team wanted to try the web's capabilities to handle a photo file.
"The Web, back in '92 and '93, was exclusively used by physicists," said de Gennaro to Motherboard. "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 photo off to Web programmer Jean-Francois Groff, who uploaded the image without incident to a page about some of CERN's musical acts. Nearly 20 years later, the Cernettes will be performing their final show on Saturday, and as the group's musical career comes to an end, their mark on the history of the Web lives on.
Here's a sample of the musical stylings of the women who were in the Web's first photo: