The BMJ website's 20th anniversary

In May 1995 The BMJ launched its website - and became the first general medical journal with an online presence.

“BMJ on the internet,” proclaims an editorial announcing the website's arrival on 27 May 1995, along with a description of the new whizz bang technology as “a global network of computers that allows communication among its estimated 30 million users,” spawning a phenomenon called the world wide web.

In 1995 most internet usage was in the US. Physicians and academic researchers in North America waited two weeks for the latest print issue of The BMJ to arrive, and an online product would provide them with speedier access to journal content.

Richard Smith, editor of The BMJ at the time of the website’s launch, describes himself as a “natural early adopter of not only things that do turn out to be significant, but also things that turn out to be crazy.”

He adds: “It seemed to me that the internet was going to have tremendous reach, that it offered possibilities of reaching out to a completely new audience. In those very early days, the main users of the internet was US academics, and historically we had always tried to reach out to the US.”

Anniversaries provide opportunities both for celebration and for reflection. This took place in The BMJ’s multimedia studio, as part of a commemorative discussion between Smith and Tony Delamothe, launch editor of bmj.com.

"The arrival of the web was one of the biggest things that happened in the past few decades; it was certainly the biggest thing that happened to this journal," notes an accompanying editorial marking the anniversary.

Find out more:

Anniversary infographic

This interactive graphic charts what happened when during the first 20 years of The BMJ's online history.

Which paper should The BMJ be most proud of publishing?

To mark The BMJ's 20th online anniversary, the journal asked 20 UK and international readers, authors, friends, and colleagues past and present to nominate their top paper published since 1995. See the full list at this link.