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  • The History of the Internet


    The Internet has truly revolutionized the world. From its extremely humble beginnings to its rapid growth, nothing in perhaps the history of the world has brought so much information to the masses and has helped individuals communicate with others. While the Internet might seem simplistic in theory, it took quite a few innovations to technologically get it where it is today.

    In a world where information was usually broadcasted from one central location to the masses, the Internet made it possible for each individual to communicate with others over vast geographic distances without relying on technologies such as TV, radio or even a telegraph machine. The Internet has made it possible for not only communication to occur between two people, but millions at the same time.

    While most technologies before the Internet were one way broadcasts, the Internet allowed information not only to be communicated, but to be shared and gave the ability for others to collaborate. Looking back, it is easy to see just how much of an impact the Internet has had on our society economically, socially, educationally and militarily, however, less than 50 years ago the idea of a internet didn’t even exist. Here is the history of the internet.

    The Early Beginning

    The origins of the Internet actually date back to 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite. The US government was extremely concerned that the Russians would militarize space or create other high tech military weapons that would threaten the security of the United States. One of the responses to Sputnik’s launch was the creation of ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) now known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). This agency was created within the Department of Defense to try to create new technologies that may have high tech military applications, hopefully giving the US a lead in the arms race against the Soviet Union.

    The first ideas about a internet type system were written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962. J.C. R. Licklider wrote several memos on what he termed a “Galactic Network”. The concept behind the Galactic Network was the ability to access information in the form of electronic data or programs from a network of computers that are all connected to one another. It should be noted that in 1962, J.C.R. Licklider headed the first computer research program at DARPA.

    Another key event that helped forge the beginnings of the Internet was a commissioned study by the USAF on how the military (specifically the Air Force) could keep control and maintain command of its nuclear missiles, airplanes and bombers after a nuclear attack. The USAF wanted a communications network that was decentralized, so that no matter the extent of damage after a nuclear attack, the military would still be able to control nuclear weapons for a counter attack. This commissioned study was overseen by Paul Baran, a member of the RAND Corporation.

    In his final report to the USAF, Paul Baran came up with a solution to accomplish the USAF’s goals by instituting a packet switched network.

    Packet Switching Theory

    Packet switching theory was developed by Leonard Kleinrock at MIT in 1961, it involved packets of data, each packet of data included information regarding both the origin and destination of the info. This type of communications was completely different than which was used before- specifically circuits by the telephone company. Packet switching had some advantages over the current method of electronic circuits due to the fact that if a packet was lost at any given point on its journey, the message could be resent easily by its originator.

    Computer Networking

    Besides packets of data being used instead of the current technology of circuits, another step was necessary to establish the Internet that we use today- a decentralized network of computers that can communicate with one another. In this case, a few experiments were conductd to determine a feasible way in which computers can communicate with one another. In 1965, one such experiment took place between a TX-2 computer in Massachusetts and a Q-32 computer to California. The connection was made with a telephone low speed dial up line. This is usually regarded as the first wide area computer network in history, however while it was demonstrated that computers can share programs and data with one another, the current circuit switched telephone system was not adequate for the task. In effect, packet switching would be the technology necessary to move forward with this project.


    The Internet was originally called the ARPANET (ARPA- NET). It was originally a project contract awarded to the company BBN. The first computer selected as the base for ARPANET was a Honeywell minicomputer. While the contract was awarded in 1968, the physical construction of the first network was completed in 1969. The first network included four computer nodes at the following universities; the University of California at Santa Barbara, University of California at Los Angeles, SRI at Stanford and the University of Utah. It should be noted that, initially the proposed line speed was only 2.4 kbps; however the network was upgraded via a 50 kbps.

    It should be noted that throughout the 1960’s several organizations were working on technologies that proved valuable to creating the internet. In fact, many of these technologies were created in parallel- without the knowledge that others were researching similar concepts, because of this fact, many historians state that most of the inventors that contributed to the Internet are to this day either unknown or unnamed.

    The Internet in the 1970’s

    During the 1970’s the Internet enjoyed growth and several key technologies were developed, including an application that is still today considered the internet’s killer app.

    In the very early 1970’s lots of experimenting took place and 19 other computers were hooked into the ARPANET. For instance, as of 1972, there were a total of 23 host computers that were tied into the backbone; however, the line speed was still at 50 kbps. During 1970 and 1971, the Network Group completed its initial Host to Host protocol which was called Network Control Protocol or NCP.

    Besides the growth of hosts on the network, 1972 would be an important year due to the fact that Ray Tomlinson of BBN created what continues to be considered to this day the killer app of the internet- email.

    Ray Tomlinson created the basics of email including the ability to send and read messages. However, others made email even more functional by adding the ability to selectively read email messages, file emails, forward emails and respond to email messages. Email had an enormous influence on those that used ARPANET adding a social dimension to the network.

    Development of TCP/IP

    While NCP (Network Control Protocol) enabled ARPANET to grow and computers to talk with one another, the protocol itself had significant flaws which must be addressed. Unfortunately, only computers on the ARPA network were able to communicate with one another, but besides ARPANET, there were many other computers that could be connected. In order to enhance the ARPANET to enable many different types of computer networks to all talk with each other an open source protocol needed to be created; this led to the development of TCP/IP in 1973. In 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn were the first to communicate using the new TCP/IP protocol. In 1976, after continued testing and use, ARPANET required TCP/IP for use on its network.

    ARPANET Expands its Reach

    During the mid 1970’s a few technologies were developed to expand the reach of ARPANET. The first was a packet satellite project that was able to send data packets over radio and satellite waves. Now ARPANET could become international and reach half way around the world. The first step was to create a link that was transatlantic. It was calle SATNET. SATNET was first linked to Norway and then to the rest of Europe. It should be noted that SATNET was transmitted by satellites owned by a consortium of countries. The US government did not own any of the satellites used in SATNET.

    Another technology that helped expand the ARPANET to more users in a specific location was the development of the Ethernet. Ethernet is a coaxial cable that is still used today in many local area networks. Ethernet is highly effective in moving data from one computer to another at high speeds.

    Another technology that was developed in the mid 1970’s was UUCP (Unix to Unix CoPy. This was a protocol used by Unix computers to send and receive files. This protocol will later play a part in Usenet. Usenet is a decentralized news group network, created by Steve Bellovin, this network continues to be popular today sending news, data files and email throughout the internet.

    By the end of the 1970’s the amount of computers (hosts) that were on ARPANET was around 111. The line speed continued to be 50 kbps and ARPANET was the only network available.

    The Internet During the 1980’s

    During the 1980’s the Internet grew exponentially, one reason included the various technical innovations such as more powerful and affordable computers and hardware that made the Internet more accessible to organizations, educational institutions and individuals as well the creation of organizations that helped manage the large and global community that was now on the net. As the Internet grew from about 150+ computer hosts on the net at 1980 to over 200,000 computers by the end of 1989, the 1980’s is the decade that really cemented the net as a truly viable communications technology.

    In the early 1980’s ARPANET was the most established computer network, but others existed, mostly as small programs for government or research purposes. One network that was created was called CSNET (Computer Science Network) by the National Science Foundation. This network was specifically established for research institutions that were unable to access ARPANET. In 1981 a plan was put into place to connect both ARPANET with CSNET allowing all computers on either network to communicate with each other.

    In 1983, two major events made using the Internet easier and more uniform than ever, they were the creation of DNS (Domain Name System) and the replacement of NCP protocol by TCP/IP. On January 1, 1983, all computers on ARPANET or CSNET were required to use this protocol. TCP/IP improved communications throughout the network and allowed all computers to easily communicate with one another.

    DNS (Domain Name System) made it much easier for individuals to communicate with other servers on the net. Before DNS, individuals would have to input long series of numbers, which were very difficult to remember. DNS is still widely used today. In fact, every web site domain name has a corresponding IP address. For instance, if Google existed back in the early 1980’s before DNS was available, you would need to input the IP address (in this case: Since the inception of DNS, you no longer have to remember any numbers; you are just required to type in the name of the domain.

    ARPANET Splits in Two

    In 1985, there were about 1,000 computers (hosts) on ARPANET, and while ARPANET was originally created for military use; science, research and social computing were by far becoming more popular on the network. The Department of Defense realized that this growth while great for research and science can be a liability to military applications, especially when sensitive data was being passed through the network. Due to national security concerns, ARPANET was split in two; ARPANET and MILNET. ARPANET was no longer used for military purposes; instead it would now focus solely on research applications. It should be noted that although ARPANET no longerwas utilized for defense, it was still supported by the DOD.

    Also in 1985, CSNET contracted MCI to upgrade the network. At the time the line speed was 56kps; with new technology newer circuits would be about 25 times faster (1.5 Mbps). These new, faster lines would be called T1 lines. While MCI would create the new circuits, IBM would create advanced routers and Merit would be utilized to manage the new network. This new network came online in 1986 and was named NSFNET (National Science Foundation Network). It should be noted that while NSFNET was a newly created network, CSNET still continued to exist at the line speed of 56Kbps.

    During the mid to late 1980’s, traffic grew exponentially from only a couple thousand computers (hosts) to more than 100,000 computers in just a span of two to three years. During this time another upgrade in line speed was contracted, this time for a T3 line, which was capable of sending traffic at speeds of 45 Mbps. However, T3 Lines took several years to develop, finally incorporated into the network in 1991.

    The Internet in the 1990’s and Beyond

    During the 1990’s, the Internet grew from a popular way to conduct communications for many research institutions to a social and economic phenomena. In 10 short years, hundreds of millions of entities discovered the Internet and new applications were created. With the advent of even more powerful home computers, software, technology, etc the Internet finally began to reach its true potential.

    The 1990’s was a watershed decade for the internet. It grew incredibly quickly and major innovations that had social, technological and commercial implications came about. Before we look into how the Internet changed the world socially and economically, let’s continue to look at the growth of the Internet itself.

    In 1991 with the advent of the T3 lines, the slower (56 kbps) CESNET network was no longer needed and thus retired. Instead, a new network called NREN, the National Research and Education Network was established to conduct high speed networking research.

    Throughout the 1990’s the Internet grew from about 300,000 host computers to hundreds of millions of computes around the world. Today, the exact number of computers on the Internet is not exactly known, but estimates exceed over a billion. In fact, throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s constant technological updates to servers, management and key systems required updating to keep the Internet running smoothly. Today, many individuals and organizations can’t imagine a world without the internet. It has moved from a small, military project to a technology that has reached into almost every aspect of our daily life. Following is some more information regarding how the Internet has influenced society and commerce over the last 15 to 20 years.

    The World Wide Web and the Internet’s Social Implications

    The World Wide Web (WWW) or commonly referred to as just the web is one of the most important innovations of the internet. Generally speaking the web is a platform that makes it incredibly easy to interlink hypertext documents which are accessible on the internet. Today, almost everyone that uses the Internet can easily access the web using a simple web browser such as MS Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox. A web browser enables the computer user to view web pages which contain all sorts of media; including text, images, streaming video, sound files and hypertext links which enable a computer user to navigate from one page to another by simply clicking on a hypertext link.

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Sir Sam Walker and Robert Cailliau are credited with creating the web at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1989; however it wasn’t until August 6, 1991 that it was first introduced to the public.

    It should be noted that the World Wide Web was one of several hypertext systems created in its day, however, it had a couple of important advantages that made it easily stand out and incorporated by manyusers. The first was the fact that hypertext links could be one way. Other systems required bi directional links. Another key feature of the web was that it was a non proprietary system without licensing restrictions- essentially free. Other hypertext linking systems at the time required special hardware that was licensed. Being free obviously had its advantages and was incorporated by many networks and clients on the Internet at the time.

    The World Wide Web and Mosaic

    The World Wide truly reached critical mass when the first modern web browser Mosaic was released in 1993. Mosaic was an easy to use, graphical browser created by the NCSA. It enabled computer users to easily navigate the web and view images embedded within text rather than showing these images in a separate window. It should be noted that Marc Andreessen which was the leader of the Mosaic project went on to develop the Netscape browser, which for most of the 1990’s was the most widely used browser, as well as the corporation that in many instances set off the Dot.com boom with its Initial Public offering of stock in 1995.

    War of the Web Browsers (Netscape, Internet Explore and Firefox)

    Netscape was a power house, not only in stock price, but in market share. At one point in the mid 1990’s, Netscape was used by almost 85% of all computers to browse the Internet and web. At the time, Microsoft realized that the Internet and specifically the web was an important aspect of technology to control. With the release of Windows 98, Microsoft included a free browser already installed and integrated with the windows operating system called Internet Explorer. In a few short years, Netscape went from close to 85% market share to less than 1%. Since 2003, Netscape is now a defunct browser.

    Because of the strong arm tactics that Microsoft used to bundle its browser with its operating system, it was sued by the US government and other world governments over charges that it abused monopoly power in its handling of web browser sales that were bundled with its operating system. Microsoft later went on to settle with the US government. The case to some extent continues to linger on in appeals regarding monopolistic powers around the world. Microsoft Internet Explorer went from barely being used in the mid 1990’s to over a 90% adoption rate in 1999 due to the software being bundled with Window’s 98.

    Mozilla’s Open Source Web Browser- Firefox

    Firefox was originally a graphic web browser developed in the early 1990’s by the Mozilla Corporation, however today, it is one of the fastest growing open source browsers on the web. Mozilla’s Firefox was initially released in its new form on November 9, 2004. Today, it has a market share of close to 15%, which is an incredible feat for a small community open source browser to reach in just a few years.

    The Internet and Search Engines

    One of the ways that the Internet has reached the masses is with search engines. While in the early days of the internet, there were only several hundred to a few thousand computers available for access on the internet, by the very early 1990’s this number reached the hundreds of thousands. With so much information online, a quick and effective way to search and retrieve this information was key. Search engines fulfilled this need for finding all types of information on the Internet (specifically the World Wide Web). Two search engines that revolutionized the Internet during the 1990’s and early 2000’s were Yahoo! and Google.


    Yahoo! is considered to be the first mainstream search engine on the web beginning back in January of 1994 as Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web, it was later incorporated in March of 1995 as Yahoo! (Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle). Yahoo! actually started out as a directory of websites, rather than a searchable index. However through the years, Yahoo grew into a web portal, or a site that includes many services, such as news, email, and instant messaing technology. Yahoo! continues to this day to be one of the most popular sites on the web.


    As Yahoo! expanded from a directory and search engine to a major portal on the web, Google, which started out as a research project in 1996 aimed at making web search more effective. For the most part, search engines indexed web sites using meta-tags and on page information, however Google took search to the next level by creating a technique called Page Rank. Page Rank is an algorithm that bases the importance of a web page on the weighted sum of the Page Ranks that linked to the corresponding page. Google used the hypothesis that human generated links correlated well with on topic, relevant web pages that people searched for.

    Since its conception, Google’s search engine immediately started to gain ground with its highly relevant search engine. However, it wasn’t’ just the popularity of its search engine that made Google.com one of the most popular and successful technology companies in the world, it was the incorporation of targeted text ads that gave Google.com a killer application and made it the extremely profitable company that we now know today.

    The History of Social Influences on the Internet

    The Social Influence of the Internet in many ways is extremely easy to see. Today, communication capabilities have reached heights that seemed almost impossible just a few decades ago. With perhaps billions of people having access to the Internet and billions of web pages of information and media to share with one another, the Internet has made the world a true global village.

    While there are many social influences created from the internet, the most important might be its ease in which communication can now take place. The Internet grew extremely quickly not only due to the low cost of home computers, networking hardware and fiber optic lines, but low cost and in most cases free access to information via the Internet and specifically the World Wide Web. Whether you are communicating via email, visiting a web page or instant messaging a friend, business associates or family member, these forms of communications are primarily free to use and accessible to all net citizens.

    Here are a few of the innovations that have socially influenced the Internet and the World Wide Web.


    Email has been called the killer application of the internet. It had its humble beginnings all the way back to 1972, but today, it still continues to be essential whether in business or personal communications. Today, many people that use the Internet do so to gain access to email. Email has made it extremely easy to send messages to one, a dozen or millions of people. While the first email messages consisted of plain text, today, you can easily send file attachments and include images, hypertext links or even streaming video within your email message.

    Email first required the user to have access to its own server; however, today web based email is free and extremely easy to use. No matter where you are in the world, as long as you have access to the internet, a web browser and a computer, you can read and send email.


    Forums started out as digital bulletin board system. Bulletin board systems were early Internet communities that allowed computer users to dial up over a phone line and upload files, download files, send messages between members, read news, etc. They were popular from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s and were considered the precursor to online forums and community ISP’s like AOL and MSN (Microsoft Network). Today, forums allow members to create threads (topics), discuss these topics, have a conversation with other members, etc. There are forums on almost any category, (e.g. cars, sports, computer tech, pop culture, music, etc)

    ISP’s and America Online

    In the early 1990’s, one of the most popular ways to gain access to the Internet and the World Wide Web was through ISP’s (Internet Service Providers). In the early and mid 1990’s there were few web sites that included large files (images, audio, etc) that required high speed access to the internet, in fact, most computers had modems that only connected from about 14kbps (early 1990’s) to 56kbps (current speed for dial up).

    In the early 1990’s as personal computers dropped in price and became more popular to the masses, ISP’s proved to be very technical for many people to experience the internet, this led the way for one of the most successful technology companies of the 1990’s – AOL.


    AOL (America Online) offered newbie’s the ability to experience the Internet and the World Wide Web that was not only easy to use, but also filled with lots of applications that added value to individuals and families. AOL received the moniker “the Internet on training wheels” by those that were more technological and comfortable online, however many families flocked to AOL to experience the Internet in a safe, comfortable and easy to use setting. AOL at one point had over 30 million subscribers, making it the number one ISP in the world.

    AOL had an enormous social influence on the Internet bringing email to the masses, creating chat rooms where members can communicate with one another and creating applications such as IM (instant messaging) where individuals could communicate one on one via text over the Internet for free).

    Online Dating

    Another Internet application that had a huge social influence was online dating. The Internet proved to be an extremely convenient and effective way to meet people and as more and more people had access to online chat rooms and bulletin boards, dating became natural. During the first few years of the 1990’s, online dating was relegated to AOL or other services that employed chat, however, within the mid to late 90’s web sites started to be created with the sole purpose of finding a mate. Today, millions of people use the Internet to find others for friendship or a relationship. There are countless online dating sites, some focused on general dating, others fulfilling a specific niche in the dating spectrum.

    Social Networking Sites

    While chat rooms, forums and online dating sites continue to be extremely popular, during the early to mid 2000’s another social phenomenon emerged on the web, this time it was called social networking sites. Today, social networking sites such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com are one of the most popular and successful sites online. These sites cater to tweens, teens and adults looking to have their own individual presence online in the form of their own page and create relationships with others such as MySpace friends. Social networking sites isn’t just for kids, in fact individuals looking to network in business also use a form of social networking sites (LinkedIn.com)


    One of the newer innovations to the web is in the form of web logs, commonly referred to as blogs. Blogs are sort of like web diaries, where individuals or organizations can communicate to their audience on a regular basis or when they feel necessary. While web sites are primarily static, in that they share information that generally does not require constant updating, blogs are constantly updated regarding commentary, news, thoughts and feelings, rants, etc. Blogs are also interactive in that a reader can easily leave a comment and the writer or other viewers can respond to the comment. Blogs have morphed from straight text to video blogs and audio blogs (sometimes called podcasts).


    Youtube is perhaps the newest innovation that has gone main stream on the internet. Started in 2005, Youtube makes it incredibly easy to upload, download and share video with others. Youtube has an easy to use interface making it able to upload almost any type of video file. Video files can easily be viewed on a computer screen, phone, etc. Youtube has truly revolutionized the broadcast of video throughout the world.

    The History of Economc Influences on the Internet

    While technological and social aspects influenced the internet, another important facet was the economic aspect that for many was the driving force of the internets adoption by the masses and the funding into the research and development of the Internet which has made it such an essential part of our world today.

    IPO (Initial Public Offerings) and the Dotcom Boom

    It should be noted that early on, technology companies that created applications on the web received enormous publicity due to IPO’s in the stock market. Probably the first company to have a stellar IPO was Netscape, the creator of the first popular web browser. Netscape went from an opening stock price of $28 per share to an incredible $75 per share on its first day. This sent shock waves throughout the market and was the beginning of the Dotcom boom. During the mid to late 1990’s many technology companies that offered services for the Internet opened with enormously profitable IPO’s. While not only making the owners of these stocks extremely rich, this also led to an incredible influx in research dollars which ultimately has had a lasting effect on the quality of products, services and technologies on the Internet today.

    Some Extremely Successful Web Based Companies

    During the dotcom boom, many web based companies became extremely wealthy and thus powerful, a handful of them included Amazon.com, eBay.com, Yahoo.com and AOL. These companies fulfilled specific niches online and in doing so created opportunities for ecommerce.

    Before the Internet became popular in the mid 1990’s, most people either had to shop in a brick or mortar store or purchase items from home through a catalogue. The web turned traditional commerce on its head. With ecommerce sites such as Amazon.com you could search through millions of books, purchase a book and have it shipped to your door step. eBay.com created the concept of an online auction where members could sell items and also bid online for items being sold. While the first few years of ecommerce had its rough spots- specifically with credit card fraud (which was the primary way for merchants to receive payment from individuals), by the end of the 1990’s new ways to secure websites and send payments safely from customers to merchants were created- specifically Paypal.com.

    Other Successful Economic Web Applications

    Two extremely successful economic web applications to come on the scene from the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s were job search sites and online trading sites. Job search sites such as HotJobs.com and Monster.com truly revolutionized the way many of us find job opportunities today. Before these Internet based job sites were available, many job seekers had to search their local newspaper for opportunities and then either send their resume in by mail or fax it in. By the end of the 1990’s, millions of people search online for jobs and hundreds of thousands of employers sought qualified employees via these web sites. Today, sending your resume via the Internet is extremely commonplace and the standard way in which most recruiters seeks employees.

    While job search sites were making inroads, in the stock market many individuals that relied on professional brokers to trade stocks switched to online trading sites. For less than $15 a trade in some circumstances, individuals could skip the need of a professional broker and buy or sell stocks and other securities on their own. These online trading sites would not only give their customers the ability to buy and sell stocks, but also a wealth of current information including stock tickers and in depth analysis to do research on their own. Online trading sites gave way to day-traders which primarily worked from home buying and selling stock over the internet.

    The Dotcom Bubble

    During the mid to late 90’s the stock market grew extremely fast, so fast that many economists predicted that the stock market Dotcom Boom would soon be the Dotcom Bubble ue to the fact that many technology companies were trading exceptionally high without any true financials behind it. In 2001, Wall Street started to experience the beginning of the Dotcom Bubble and the subsequent collapse of technology stock prices began.

    In many ways, the Dotcom bubble had a positive effect at thinning the herd and making successful technology companies leaner and more competitive, however most dotcom startups that either didn’t have a viable business plan or enough savings, folded under the collapse.

    Google Contextual Ads

    While the Dotcom bubble signaled the end of successful IPO’s for most technology companies, one company- Google.com rekindled the dotcom boom with its IPO in 2004. Google has become one of the most popular and fastest growing companies in the history of business.

    Google, which has a market cap of over 200 billion dollars, had small beginnings as a highly effective search engine. However, while their search engine won the respect of millions of daily web site visitors, the reason that Google became an economic powerhouse was due to its ability to marry search with advertising- Google Contextual Ads.

    The idea behind contextual ads is quite simple; when an individual searches for a specific term via Google’s search engine, besides delivering results in the form of web sites that offer information on the topic, Google also delivers advertisements that closely match the keyword search.

    For instance, when you search for the keyword term “mountain bike”, besides receiving web site results, you would also receive advertisements from perhaps John’s Mountain Bike Shop. The difference between Google’s contextual advertisements and the standard newspaper or TV advertisement was that there is also a hyperlink, where the viewer not only views the ad, but also could visit the site- hopefully making a purchase. This had an enormous impact on the advertising industry and the Internet as a whole. With Google’s contextual ads, small web site owners could compete with large corporations by targeting specific keyword advertisements to those that search for specific terms.

    Today, Google’s reach in contextual ads has reached much further and it has become a powerhouse in advertising online and off.

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