Nowadays, one cannot imagine life without the Internet. Arguably, the web is as revolutionary and ground-breaking invention as things like a printing press, the telegraph, or even the very technology of writing. Thanks to the Internet, billions of people across all over the world can communicate with each other, search for different kinds of information, work, and buy goods by merely using their PCs, Macs, or smartphones.
Although such global popularity and integrity of the Internet largely take its roots from the edge of the 20th and 21st centuries, this technology is much older than one may think. In reality, the web is more than 40 years old, and some technological advancements and ideas, which eventually led to its creation are even older. To help you to investigate the fascinating history of the Internet, our team have collected a bunch of exciting facts about the web.
The earliest years
1. One may track the Internet to as early as 1957. On that year, the United States Department of Defense decided to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in response to the USSR’s launch of the first spacecraft satellite. The main goal of ARPA was to create new projects in science and technology to obtain superiority over their potential foreign competitors.
2. In the early 1960s, the web was born on paper. It started from the United States Air Force request to create technology, which would allow protecting and transferring crucial data in the conditions of a possible nuclear war. In 1962, such a task became theoretically possible. In particular, J. C. R. Licklider of MIT introduced a concept for a global computer network. In the same year, Paul Baran of the Rand Corporation designed a method of dividing information into blocks, which could be sent separately from one computer to another. ARPA was highly interested in both ideas, so the agency invested in them, creating the ARPANET project in 1968.
From the ARPANET to the Internet
3. In 1971, the ARPANET was nothing but a network, which connected 23 mini-computers within different universities and research facilities in the USA. In such a way, the network allowed sharing pieces of information regardless of the distance between its users. Two years later, England and Norway were connected to the ARPANET, which now became the first international network.
4. Following the ARPANET, several other computer networks were created in the 1970s. Still, since they used different protocols, each of them can be perceived as a separate system. For instance, Ethernet, developed by Robert Metcalfe connected computers via cables while Tim Truscott and Steve Bellovin invented USENET, a network, which works via a dial-up phone connection. Still, in 1973, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which aimed at linking multiple networks together. Next year, in their notes regarding TCP, Kahn and Cerf coined the term “Internet.”
5. In 1983, the ARPANET connected about 500 hosts, primarily universities and research facilities. At the same time, dial-up networks introduced email communication and became available in most developed countries. With the growing amount of users and different purposes for the network use, there was a need for creating a convenient and efficient way to help the users to find particular information. To address this issue, scholars of the University of Wisconsin created the Domain Name System (DNS), which is still widely used.
The first steps towards global access
6. By the mid-1980s, different computer networks were used by many universities across the USA and Europe for research, education, and communication purposes. Similarly, some large companies started to investigate ways of potential commercial use of the network. Nevertheless, the Internet remained largely inaccessible for the general population. For this reason, in 1989, Timothy Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, a system which allowed connection of numerous devices via particular software, called a web browser.
7. The first web browser, called WWW, reflecting the name of the World Wide Web, was introduced by Berners-Lee in 1990. The browser was successfully used by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), so in 1992, CERN made it became available for download for anyone with a device that supported File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Shortly after, the Network Solutions, Inc., established by the U.S. National Science Foundation, started to register services, using .com, .net, .org, and .gov domains, depending on their purposes.
8. In 1994, the Internet became widely open for commercial use, so the number of websites increased dramatically. Because of this, there was a need for specific tools which could help users to search the relevant information and navigate through all the websites quickly. As a result, the first web search engines such as Yahoo!, Excite, and Infoseek were introduced. Moreover, since telecommunication companies provided access to the network, it was finally available for most people, at least in developed countries, for the first time in its history.
9. The mid-1990s were times when the Internet finally left ‘the underground.’ In 1984, there were about 1000 users of the Internet. Ten years later, this number increased to sixteen million and quadrupled by 1997. One may assume that such growth became possible because of numerous advancements brought to the web. For example, in 1995, Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer, Java was created, and websites like Amazon and eBay were launched. Finally, in 1997, Stanford University students Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Scott Hassan, introduced Google Search engine, which became synonymous with the very process of web search.
10. At the edge of the 20th and 21st centuries, many .com Internet-based companies, mostly online shopping ones, suffered from the dotcom bubble. This event was a consequence of speculative growth in the value of .com websites. Although some people predicted that the bubble would end the era of online shopping, nowadays, the online marketplace is as large and popular as never before.
11. Also, at the beginning of a new millennium, the Internet became available in many developing countries as well. Considering the fact that the first social media like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube appeared shortly after, the world became really interconnected. It became possible for millions of people from all over the world to communicate with each other easily. Such a trend was largely facilitated by the invention of wireless Internet connection (WiFi) and smartphones, which allow accessing the web 24/7.
12. As of June 2019, there are more than 4,5 billion Internet users. This implies that nearly 60% of the world’s total population has access to the web. Of those, almost 2,3 billion live in Asia, even though this continent has a relatively low Internet penetration rate of 53,6%, which is significantly lower than all other world regions in exception of Africa, which has 39,5% penetration rate and more than half a billion of active Internet users. Still, one may expect that in the nearest future, the Internet will be even more accessible, connecting all the people.
Although the Internet as a working system is more than 40 years old, it was not widely available and accessible until the mid-1990s. From an experimental network that connected several mini-computers, the web evolved into the whole digital space, which connects billions of users across the globe. So, while surfing the web, take a moment to appreciate the long way the Internet passed throughout its history and all the contributions made by its inventors to make it convenient, useful, and, eventually, irreplaceable.