The internet has changed the world completely in just a few decades. Today, we do so many things online, including shopping, paying bills, socializing, reading the news, learning, and more. So, when did the history of the internet begin? A range of inventions laid the framework for it, such as the telegraph, the computer, and others. Humanity seems to have been gradually moving toward that point for centuries, but most of the development has taken place over just the past few decades. In this article, you will learn about the history of the internet.
1957 is our starting point. After the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the very first Earth satellite, the USA started to think of ways to prevent the country from making further technological progress. It happened during the Cold War, a period of geopolitical tension between the two countries that lasted for 44 years. This is how the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was established.
Joseph Licklider introduced the concept of interactions with the help of a network. He described a range of PCs accessing the same info and software no matter where they are.
That year, Paul Baran from RAND, a US nonprofit policy institute, proposed the creation of a decentralized network. He came up with this idea to manage the risk that the United States Air Force might lose control of their systems if a nuclear attack damaged their central computer. A decentralized system could keep working if one of several computers were destroyed, provided a few others remained functional.
Donald Davies from the UK-based National Physical Laboratory invented packet switches, a method for grouping data into packets (message blocks) and transmitting them over a digital network. Each packet included two parts: control info and user data (payload or the intended message).
The U.S. Department of Defense approved the ARPANET project and appointed R. Taylor and L. Roberts to manage it. They applied the packet switching method to the project.
In autumn of that year, a message was sent between two host PCs via the ARPANET. It was conducted by L. Kleinrock, a professor at UCLA, and one of his students. They tried to send the simple message “login” but only manage to send “lo.” However, within an hour, they fixed the error and successfully transmitted the entire message. More computers were added to the network within the next few years. Specialists continued to work on building special programs and a communication protocol.
Another interesting event that took place in 1969 was the launch of the Unix OS. Several modern OS’s such as Linux was developed based on its design.
The Network Working Group developed the Network Control Program (NCP), which was in use from 1971 to 1972. Also, a network was created among several institutions, including BBN Technologies, Harvard, and MIT.
Electronic mail—known today simply as email or e-mail—was created by Tomlinson, who at that point worked for BBN Technologies. It was a breakthrough, as this program allowed people to communicate through electronic messages. In fact, the developer was the one who determined that the “@” symbol should be used as a separator between the receiver/sender and PC names.
Another significant event that happened that year was the founding of Project Gutenberg, which has grown into a library with more than 60,000 eBooks available for free. It was based on the idea of making various documents available electronically so that everyone could access them. It required documents to be converted into electronic formats.
M. Hart, the creator of the e-library, realized that it was crucial to make data more available. This information was only available in libraries. So, he launched the digital library to make information from books and newspapers widely available. The very first electronic book was born.
The network concept was finally officially introduced to the public by R. Kahn at ICCC. At the same time, in France, a project similar to the ARPANET was being developed under the supervision of L. Pouzin. Although it was a closed project, it contributed greatly to the development of the web. The main idea behind the French project was to make a host PC responsible for transferring data, rather than the network itself.
The first transatlantic connection was established with the help of the ARPANET. Meanwhile, the popularity of electronic mail grew rapidly, and more than half of all activity in the network were related to sending/receiving emails.
The term “internet” appeared for the first time. This happened unintentionally. Cerf and Kahn needed to come up with something short for “internetwork” to be able to use it in shorthand (a method that increases the speed of writing by shortening words Also, the inventors introduced the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) along with the Internet Protocol (IP). These protocols allowed PCs to communicate using different networks.
Since email became incredibly popular, a programmer at USC, J. Vittal, created a popular program for sending emails. The major advantage of that program was that it allowed users to reply to and forward messages.
Ethernet, a method for connecting PCs in a Local Area Network (LAN) was created by American engineer Metcalfe.
In 1977, Hayes and Heatherington managed to invent the very first modem, a device capable of converting data into a format that could be transmitted between computers.
This was the year when a Bulletin Board System (BBS), a PC, or an app that allowed for the sharing or exchanging of messages or files within a network was built. Also, G. Thuerk sent a commercial email to 600 people at once, creating the very first spam.
The first games suitable for multiple players were developed and named MUD. Also, students designed a social media system and named it Usenet. It allowed people from different countries to communicate by sending and reading messages.
The first emoticon was created. It was S. Fahlman who offered to use 🙂 instead of “-),” which was proposed by MacKenzie.
PCs connected with ARPANET began to use TCP and IP.
That year, the Domain Name System (DNS) was invented. It was extremely important because it made web addresses more memorable and easier to type than a sequence of numbers. Thanks to this system, people could type domain names, and those names would then be automatically converted into the IP format.
The WELL virtual community was launched. It’s actually still available for users, by the way. Initially, it was intended for readers and authors of the Whole Earth magazine.
A silent war between different countries regarding which protocol should be used began in 1986. On one hand, European countries wanted to use the OSI stack and on the other, the U.S. wanted to use IPs. The latter eventually won out.
IRC, an app layer protocol, was deployed. While it was not an instant messaging app, it contributed to the development of such apps. In the same year, the first virtual attack took place due to net-worms. These were later named after Morris, their creator.
AOL, an American Internet portal, went online, and the English engineer Berners-Lee introduced the concept of “WWW.” Initially called “Mesh” by the inventor, it was later renamed the “World Wide Web.”
The first commercial Internet Service Provider appeared. ARPANET was discontinued. Also, the work on the WWW was completed, and a range of significant standards was developed, including HTML.
Web pages (hypertext documents) and a protocol for searching for info within content rather than only within a file name were created. In addition, that year, MP3 was chosen as a standard coding format for audio content. The very first webcam was also developed in Cambridge University’s computer laboratory.
A browser called Mosaic became publicly available. Although it was not the first browser offered, it was considered the first browser that could be used without any specialized knowledge. Also, the White House (.gov) and the UN (.org) became visible on the net.
Several significant events happened in 1995. It was the year when the web was first used for commercial purposes. While some internet companies had been established before that year, a few significant developments allowed for the further commercialization of the net.
One such development was the creation of SSL encryption, which allowed users to make secure payments over the net. This was also the year when eBay and Amazon were established.
Hotmail became the very first net-based service.
People began using the term “weblog.” Weblogs existed before then, but it was in 1997 that they got their name.
The very first big story to appear online was about the famous love affair between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. 1998 was also the year Google was launched! It changed the way people searched for info on the net. That was also when users were first able to exchange files over the net, something that quickly became very popular.
SETI@home was established. It was capable of using the processors of multiple PCs around the globe when they were idle, a state indicated by a screensaver. It became the third-largest distributed computing project.
The event known as the dot-com collapse occurred that year. Due to the dot-com bubble, extensive speculation in internet-based companies, many investors lost money and several companies went bankrupt, some of which never paid out money to their investors.
This is when Wikipedia was established. To this day, it’s one of the most successful and interesting internet-based projects. It continues to expand each year.
A few interesting events happened this year, including the following:
MySpace was the leader among social media networks. It remained popular until Facebook gained prominence in 2008;
Voice over Internet Protocol became more popular, and Skype was successfully launched, allowing people to easily make calls over the net;
The CAN-SPAM Act was signed by U.S. President George Bush. It became the first set of rules for the regulation of commercial emails;
While DiNucci came up with the term “Web 2.0” in 1999 to describe the internet becoming more interactive and integral, it only became popular five years later. Since then, building web-based applications instead of software downloadable to desktops has drawn a lot of attention.
People began using the term “Social media.” It became an extremely popular concept. Sharpley applied the name to websites and web apps that allowed people to connect and share different types of content. Lots of people were happy to be closer to their friends no matter where they were. Social media allowed them to interact with other people, browse their pictures, see their messages and comments, etc.
It is also worth mentioning Digg, which was launched at the same time. It was a site that published news and created the basis for future giants like Yahoo! and others.
It was also the year Facebook became available, though only to college students. Initially, its name was “The Facebook,” but it later became what it is now.
This was an important year for Internet users because YouTube became available. From the very beginning, it allowed users to watch videos online for free and share them with people from all over the world.
This is the year Twitter was launched. Originally, it was supposed to be called “twittr” to make it sound similar to Flickr. But as you may have already guessed, the name was eventually changed to what it is today.
Hulu was launched that year, giving users access to many interesting TV shows on the net. The most significant event was the release of the iPhone, which started a new trend for web apps and design.
The U.S. presidential election of 2008 was conducted with the help of the web. Candidates used innovative technologies to promote their campaigns. In particular, Hillary Clinton started a YouTube channel for her presidential campaign. Almost all candidates made accounts on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Another significant event was when R. Paul raised more than $4,000,000 in one day thanks to online donations. He managed to raise even more a few weeks later.
That was the year the policy of ICANN, an American nonprofit organization changed. It signed an agreement to adhere to a multistakeholder governance model.
Over time, Facebook grew into a platform with more than 400,000,000 users. At the same time, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act was passed, becoming the first significant cybersecurity bill.
Also, by this time, the number of people in China using the net had reached 450,000,000, making it the country with the largest number of users.
The biggest internet event that has ever taken place was the 2011 Royal Wedding. Also, UCLA, where the very first network node was created, opened a center dedicated to the history of the global system.
The Internet Society, an American nonprofit organization, launched the Internet Hall of Fame to recognize those who have made major contributions to the improvement of the net.
What Should We Expect in the Future?
So, what is the future going to bring for this global system? The history of the internet is not over yet, and people have many different ideas about how it will develop in a few decades. The only thing that’s certain is that it is going to grow and become even more incredible.
Since its inception, the internet has changed drastically, and exciting new ways to use it are being discovered all the time. For example, we can assume that the industry will put a lot of energy into improving virtual reality technology. We may soon see pictures, videos, and other content displayed in midair.