The internet is one of the most important inventions in human history. It has revolutionised how we communicate, learn, and meet each other.
But how did the internet come to be the 15 petabytes of data that it is today? And how will it change in the future?
The first computer network was set up way back in 1969. The US Defence Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (Arpanet) formed a basic framework for what would go on to become the internet as we know it. The first message sent across the network was the word ‘login’, but the system crashed on the letter ‘g’.
In 1973, several Arp-networks were linked to form an inter-network with no central control. The University College of London and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway connected to Arpanet. This term internet is born.
The next year, the first internet service provider (ISP) was created, known as Telenet.
In 1982, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) are created. ‘The internet’ was defined as any TCP/IP connected networks. TCP/IP remains the standard protocol for the internet today. In 1983, the Domain Name System was established, giving us the domains .com, .co.uk, .org, and many more which are still used today.
In 1984, author William Gibson coins the term ‘cyberspace’ in the ground-breaking novel Neuromancer.
The term ‘World Wide Web’ was first proposed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. The concept was designed to convince CERN, his employer, that a network built on global hypertext would be in their best interest.
Tim Berners-Lee would go on to invent HTML (HyperText Markup Language) in 1990. Still one of the main coding languages used today, HTML was one of the biggest developments in the formation of the internet.
The first web page as we would recognise it was created in 1991. The first webcam was set up in the same year at Cambridge University’s computer lab, designed to keep an eye on the coffee pot so people could avoid making the trip when it was empty.
Ebay and Amazon went live in 1995. Google went live in 1998, changing the way people find information. It is now the primary method of finding anything online. Wikipedia was launched in 2001, further revolutionising the way people access information. Facebook launched in 2004, Youtube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006. These are some of the biggest websites today, responsible for gigantic amounts of data being uploaded onto them every single day.
Email was invented in 1971, allowing user to send a short message to another user on the same network. Just two years later, email accounted for 75% of all activity on Arpanet. The first email client was invented in 1975, with the added functionalities of ‘Reply’ and ‘Forward’ which we now take for granted.
In 1976, Queen Elizabeth sent her first email. In 1978, the first spam email was sent.
1971 was also the year Project Gutenberg went live, one of the most significant undertakings in human civilisation. Project Gutenberg is a world-wide initiative to make books and famous documents in the public domain digitalised and available for free.
The project’s founder, Michael Hart, realised that the future of computing wasn’t in the raw computing power itself, but in the storing and retrieval of information. He began manually typing famous works, and essentially invented the eBook.
1979 saw the creation of Usenet, the first internet-based discussion system. It allowed users to post messages on public forums grouped by topic.
In 1988, Internet Relay Chat was introduced, paving the way for today’s instant messenger systems like Facebook Chat and Whatsapp.
Wifi was invented in 1997, revolutionising how people got online. Before this, dial-up modems were the only way for people to access the internet.
Today the internet is ubiquitous, with smartphones and Internet of Things-enabled devices being able to connect to the internet from wherever they are. Over 3 billion people use the internet, and the majority of that is now on mobile devices.
Every minute, over 200 million emails are sen, and over 70 hours of video content is uploaded to Youtube.
With 5G being rolled out, augmented reality, and new devices being constantly invented, the future of the internet is definitely exciting.