We have already answered the question what is the Internet? in-depth. Here’s a short reminder, if you are too keen to continue reading instead of breaking the stride. The Internet, sometimes called “a network of networks” is a system architecture that allows a variety of computer networks across the globe to interconnect.
Origins of the Internet
The idea of an interconnected world has existed for centuries, although it started with roads, and later railways and airspace. In regards to sharing data and energy, people realized its potential in the time of Nikola Tesla. He often spoke of wireless systems that span great distances in the early 1900s. Later on, in the 1930s and 1940s, libraries started searching for ways to implement a system for book and media archival, backup, and easy browsing.
But it wasn’t until the 1960s that something that became the basis of the Internet happened. It was a concept of “packet switching”, popularized by J.C.R. Licklider from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was based on developing a way of sending electronic data back and forth via bulky and crude computers, often between two or more universities for scientific purposes.
First known working concept of the Internet
On February 7, 1958, the Department of Defense Directive 5105.15 was signed by Neil McElroy, the Secretary of Defense of the United States. His signature allowed the launch of ARPANET, which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, regarded as the prototype of the Internet. The project, just like the Internet, sent electronic data between multiple computers through packet switching on a single network. The first message sent through ARPANET was delivered on October 29, 1969.
It was short and simple, just “LOGIN”, and sent from the UCLA to the Standford University. Unfortunately, on that day, Stanford only received two letters, “LO”, because the network crashed. Another key idea for the Internet came in 1972, after a failed project, an ARPANET-like network called CYCLADES. They were responsible for the idea that instead of the network itself, the host computer should be responsible for data transmission.
The next significant success was TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, which is still in use to this day. TCP/IP was developed in the 1970s by scientists Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, and adopted into ARPANET on January 1, 1983. That date is often celebrated as the Internet’s birthday. The same year, DNS (Domain Name System), still in use today, established domains such as mil, .org, .edu, .int, .net, .com. Before that, websites used numbers and were accessed using domains such as 123.456.789.111, for example. Oh, and did you know that after the first e-mail program, called MSG was developed in 1975? And that Queen Elizabeth sent her first e-mail in 1976?
When did the Internet become widespread?
In 1984, William Gibson defined the term “cyberspace”, and the next year, the first registered domain, symbolics.com, was registered as a website for the Symbolics Computer Corp. In 1986, The National Science Foundation’s NSFNET network made its first connection and was used alongside ARPANET. It achieved a speed of 56 kbit/s, the speed of dial-up modems later available across the globe. CISCO shipped the first router in 1987, during which time there were almost 30,000 host computers on the ARPANET. The first real-time chat, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was released in 1988, and World.std.com became the first-ever commercial dial-up Internet provider in 1989.
On its 20th anniversary, ARPANET was commemorated by a UCLA symposium on October 29, 1989, and officially decommissioned the next year. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, who worked at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, invented the World Wide Web. He wrote the first web browser in 1990 and released into other scientific institutions in early 1991, and to the general public in the second half of that year. That event kickstarted the evolution of the Information Age and allowed the Internet to become widespread. WWW, alongside standards Tim wrote, HTML, URL, and HTTP, remain the base tool for anyone using the Internet to this day.
When did the Internet become popular?
The early to mid-1990s are years widely regarded as the time the Internet started piquing interest worldwide. The term “surfing the Internet” and “surfing the Web” became popular around 1992, and by 1993, the total number of websites was around 600. Both Netscape and the first Web browser by Microsoft, for their Windows 95 systems, was created in 1994. Yahoo! went live in 1994 as Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web, and WebCrawler became the first-ever Web search engine that allowed for a full-text search.
The year of 1995
The late 1990s
Hotmail, the first webmail service, was launched in 1996, and the number of websites was only about 100,000. The commercial release of 56 kbps modems occurred in 1997, and Google and Napster went live in 1998. The following year, scientists launched one of the most important projects the humanity has ever undertaken, SETI@home. Any computer across the world connected to the Internet could lend processing power whenever a screensaver came on. By doing so, they had an equivalent of a supercomputer, doing difficult calculations and analysis. One of their goals was to analyze data for signs of life outside of Earth.
The Internet in the 2000s
Wikipedia was launched in 2001, as a volunteer-based collaborative project to create a core encyclopedia from scratch. Both Skype and MySpace were launched in 2003, the latter of which quickly became the most popular social media network. In 2004, the Web started to take the shape we know today, utilizing graphics and interactive content, and was known as “Web 2.0”.
This paved way for websites such as Digg and Facebook (for college students only) which launched in 2004, as well as YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, and Hulu in 2007. Additionally, the year of 2008 became known as the “Internet presidential election” in the United States. Presidential candidates raised money online for their campaign and promoted their candidacy through websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Finally, the year of 2010 was significant for the launch of Instagram and Pinterest.