World Wide Web Virtual Library

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The World Wide Web Virtual Library was the first index of content on the World Wide Web and still operates as a directory of e-texts and information sources on the web. It was started by Tim Berners-Lee[1] creator of HTML and the World Wide Web itself, in 1991 at CERN in Geneva. Unlike commercial index sites, it is run by a loose confederation of volunteers, who compile pages of key links for particular areas in which they are expert. It is sometimes informally referred to as the "WWWVL", the "Virtual Library" or just "the VL".

The individual indexes, or virtual libraries live on hundreds of different servers around the world. A set of index pages linking these individual libraries is maintained at, in Geneva only a few kilometres from where the VL began life. A mirror of this index is kept at East Anglia (UK). A VL specific search engine has operated for some years and is now (VLsearch) located on its own server at

The central affairs of the Virtual Library are co-ordinated by an elected Council. A central index (the 'Catalog') is maintained and joint services provided by the Council on behalf of the association.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library participated in the SOPA protests on January 18, 2012.[2]


The Virtual Library was first conceived and run by Tim Berners-Lee, and later expanded, organised and managed for several years by Arthur Secret, before it became a formally established association with Gerard Manning as its Council's first chairman. The late Bertrand Ibrahim was a key contributor to the pre-association phase of the Virtual Library's development, and then served as its Secretary until his untimely death in 2001 at the age of 46.

A brief history, with links to archived pages and screenshots, is maintained on the Vlib site.

The Virtual Library has grown over the years, so that there are now around 300 sub-libraries within the main library. (For example, there is the WWW-VL: History Central Catalogue, which was launched on 21 September 1993 by Lynn H. Nelson at Kansas University. From April 2004, it was relocated at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy where the history of the History catalogue is also available.)

The Virtual Library was incorporated as an association sans but lucratif (not for profit association) in the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Switzerland. Major decisions, including a set of bylaws are decided by the membership at large.

The main Virtual Library website was redesigned in 2005 and many old or dead individual Virtual Libraries were removed from the index.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aaron Wall. "History of Search Engines: From 1945 to Google Today". Search Engine History. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  2. ^ "The WWW Virtual Library". January 18, 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-01-18. Retrieved 18 January 2012.

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