Origin of the word “website”
Posted: 08 May 2007 10:50 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m trying to find out why, or how, the term “site” was adopted in “website”, instead of another.

For example, “webplace” would convey the same meaning.

I’ve looked in the obvious places like Wikipedia and W3C, including Tim Berners-Lee’s own pages.

If anyone knows a reference to the very first use of “website” (or perhaps “web site"), or the history of the word, that would be very interesting.

Please note, I’m not looking for the history of the WWW, or reasons why “site” is an appropriate word. I’m looking for the reason why “site” was chosen instead of alternatives.

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James Bull

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Posted: 08 May 2007 11:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Internet started out as Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) - a project of an agency known at various times as ARPA and DARPA (Defence ARPA) which is part of the Department of Defense.  It is common in military lingo to refer to an installation as a site, e.g. missile site, etc.  Therefore, each place where there was a computer on the ARPANET was considered a site.  Other Internet related “sites” pre-date website, e.g. FTP site, archie site, etc.

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Posted: 08 May 2007 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks Myridon.

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James Bull

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Posted: 09 May 2007 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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And here is OED’s earliest cite for the word

1993 Computer Shopper (Nexis) Mar. 724 Alas, the WEB has just begun its development. When we checked, we found that there’s not even a single WEB site in North America, although there is a very good chance that one will exist by the time this goes to print.

Interesting that the OED have it as two words (web site, n.), and rather surprisingly, at least to me, an unscientific Google check shows a marked preference for this: “web site” - 1,260,000,000 as opposed to “website” - 855,000,000.

[ Edited: 09 May 2007 05:02 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 09 May 2007 05:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ah, but that’s the earliest cite for web site. The OED3 has this for plain old site used in a computer context:

[1969 Request for Comments (Network Working Group) (Electronic text) No. 1. 6 As [read at] some sites a great deal of work has gone into making the computer highly responsive to a sophisticated console.] 1970 Request for Comments (Network Working Group) (Electronic text) No. 61. 8 To RECEIVE is added a parameter specifying a site to which the RECEIVE is to be sent.

The 1969 site is in brackets because it (presumably) is ambiguous; it could be intended to mean the physical, as opposed to cyber, location.

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Posted: 09 May 2007 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Fascinating. One can almost glimpse the word in transit, as it were, from one sense to another, in that 1969 cite.

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Posted: 09 May 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Interesting that the OED have it as two words (web site, n.), and rather surprisingly, at least to me, an unscientific Google check shows a marked preference for this

Not surprising, really; it’s typical for lexical items to start out as two words and eventually get jammed together (base ball > baseball is a classic example). Over time the two-word spelling will get rarer and disappear.

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Posted: 09 May 2007 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks everyone for the responses and the discussion.

I found Wordorigins.org this afternoon (Perth, Australia = GMT +8) when I was Googling (now, there’s a word with known origins!) “origin of the word website”.

Got the answer in minutes from Myridon.

The reason for my research is that I’m trying to write a blog post about the language of the web.

So, having registered and posted out of pure self-interest, I just want to say I’ve been impressed by the reception and Wordorigins will become one of my regular places to visit.

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James Bull

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