History of Internet

People living in modern society cannot imagine their loves without Internet. It is something that can be used to get information, talk to a friend, check out the weather/location/nice place to eat, write one’s impressions of a movie, listen to music, etc. In fact, each element of a person’s life is somehow related to the Internet. It is not surprising, because in the rapidly moving modern life and non-stop process of globalization Internet is the fastest way to conduct a vast variety of operations, while staying in one location. It gives people a possibility to get information from all over the world within seconds and still stay in one’s office or home. This invention has become a truly significant and irreplaceable element of modern life. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that some fifty years ago no one had a clue about even the possibility of such a huge network that could cover the whole world. Some three decades ago only the luckiest ones were able to use computer networks, and only in the 1990s the technologies that became the basis of modern internet were created. This paper presents a study of Internet history with a brief timeline, as well as deeper study of some of the most significant milestones of Internet development, as well as notes some of the people involved in the process.

Timeline of Internet Development

The history of Internet is much shorter than the history of such technological advancements as, for example, electricity or automobiles. But, at the same time, it already has a number of significant milestones. In fact, there are so many important steps in the process of Internet development that it is essential to create some kind of a timeline that will in short present the overall history of Internet development.

The history of Internet (or at least first ideas of computer network) starts back in 1960s, when with the growth of computer power the idea of interaction between large amounts of information was proposed. In late 1960s first networks of supercomputers were created, with ARPANET being the biggest one (Zakon). In 1971 first email system was invented, which allowed users to exchange mail within ARPANET (Gromov). A major breakthrough was made with the invention of TCP/IP in 1974, although it was commonly adopted only in 1982. Technological advancement of mainstream industries has led to opposition and already in 1984 first official computer hack has happened (Gromov). In 1990 the first web browser was invented by a British scientist who a year later introduced the World Wide Web. In 1994 Cookies were used for the first time and were used to show if a person was the first-time website visitor (Zakon). Currently everyone knows that China has strict limitations on the information shared via Internet in the country, but not many realize that the Chinese Government began to control Internet information back in 1996. The same year first online chats were created, and a year later the term “weblog” was used by Jorn Barger.

This was the time of the more-or-less modern era of Internet. In 1998 both Mozilla and Google projects were created and a year later Napster allowed the possibility to share information between Internet users. Another significant web resource, Wikipedia, was founded in 2001.  Finally, Facebook was founded in 2004 (but opened to general public only two years later). The era of social networking has begun. It was followed by Youtube in 2005 and first Tweets in 2006 (Ellison).

Internet has always been used not only for fun and comfort, but also for politics and financial issues. For example, in 2000 John McCain raised online $1 million for his presidential campaign in only 48 hours (Leiner). Online resources have become integral elements of political life in different countries. In 2002 online voter registration was implemented in Arizona, and in 2003 Gary Hart became the first candidate for President to have an online blog (Ellison). The same year Switzerland had the first official online election, and the first member of the UK Parliament created his blog.

The further one movers in the history of Internet the more events happen and the faster the pace of various online structures and programs becomes. Along with the development of hew technologies more and more questions appeared: online privacy and security; freedom over Internet and its’ limitations; Internet legislation. Many of them still need to be answered.

First Steps in Internet Development

It is not surprising that the idea of Internet, as well as many other ideas, has its’ roots in the needs of military. In times of Cold War and with existence and possible use of nuclear weapons US scientists came up with the idea of a network based of two main principles: each elements of the networks should be considered equal and there should not be any centralized system; the network from the very beginning should be considered unreliable and thus treated as such. In this network all information should be divided in “packets”, which would travel from source to destination points by different unconnected routes and on individual basis (Leiner). This would allow keeping information concise and safe even with the loss of large pieces of the network because the remaining network elements would still preserve significant elements of data.

The idea of decentralized and significantly vital network was so stunning that back in the 1960s various institutions have tried to implement it. For example, the British National Physical Laboratory had its’ test network by 1968 (Salus &Vinton). It was shortly followed by a larger network in the United States, which was named ARPANET (Gromov; Salus &Vinton). Its’ elements (nodes) were supercomputes, which could even grant remote access from other nodes. By early 1970s there were 37 nodes in ARPANET and at that point it was a breakthrough (Zakon). With the network growth it appeared that along with scientific use, it was also a very popular way of communication and sharing of information. Therefore, ARPANET was rapidly growing throughout 1970s.

Of course, along with ARPANET, there were other networks, which developed at the same time. It became possible to connect them to the APRANET with the invention of TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol). TCP was invented to convert information into packet streams and then convert them back at the destination point, while the main task of IP was (and still is) do address all the packets in correct directions and control their transfers(Salus &Vinton).

With the technological progress powerful computers became more and more popular. In the late 1970s and 1980s not only state and research institutions, but also private companies became the owners of computers that could be connected to the network (Leiner). It was the time when the word Internet was used for the first time as a name of this network that connected multiple machines over long distance.

The Fathers of World Wide Web and Internet

Many people have contributed to the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) and Internet, but there are three people who are responsible for all the conveniences of online life that people are using nowadays.  Two American scientists invented Internet and about a decade and a half later WWW was created by a British researcher. Although the majority of people do not make a clear distinction between the World Wide Web and Internet, these are two very different notions.

Vinton Gray Cerf (also known as Vint Cerf) and Robert Elliot Kahn (Bob Kahn) are the two men commonly known as the “founding fathers of the Internet”. The two scientists are famous for the creation of the DoD TCP/IP protocol suite (Gormov). They have met while working on the ARPANET system on the earlier stages, when there were only two nodes in the system. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn have created the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, which constructed the basis for Internet and became the two main protocols used in the system (Salus &Vinton). The main breakthrough of the TCP/IP was that the two protocols allowed connecting not only the computers within APRANET, but also the nodes between different networks (Leiner). Therefore, the next step was the unification of various networks within one system named Internet.

Sir Timothy Barns-Lee or, as he is commonly known – Tim Barns-Lee (or even TimBL) is a man behind the three most powerful letters - WWW. This British computer scientist is responsible for the major breakthrough in the global technological development.  Although Tim Barns-Lee did not create the Internet, his invention of WWW has significantly increased the role of Internet. World Wide Web was created around 1990 and at first its’ main aim was to ease the retrieval of information by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) scientists (Wegter). This has developed in a universal linking information system with the first server in the world located in CERN. In 1991 Tim Barns-Lee together with his colleague have created the first website and posted information about the WWW on the Internet. After that the World Wide Web system was released for free, thus becoming a public domain, which could be accessed by anyone (Wegter).

Internet Contributors

Along with Vinton Gray Cerf, Robert Elliot Kahn, and Sir Timothy Barns-Lee, who are the founders of the basic elements of the modern Internet, there are also many other scientists that have contributed to the development of the system and made the network look the way people see it today. All the website structures, social networks, scripts, and other elements of modern Internet have been created by various scientists (as well as just smart men) during the past couple of decades. This study names only a small number of them, although in fact hundreds of people made their contributions to the development of Internet as one sees it today.

Marc Andreessen invented one of the first web browsers (the first one was created by Tim Barns-Lee), which significance is in its’ popularity among Internet users. Moreover, this browser, named Mosaic, was the first one to display images and text together. Brian Behlendorf is the main developer of Apache Mail Server, which is still the most popular server and is significant for its’ extensibility. It was the first server to be able to host hundreds of websites from one computer server. PHP, the most common language to develop dynamic web pages, was created in 1995 by three men: Rasmus Lerdorf, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski.

Social networks that are so popular nowadays also have their founding father - Brad Fitzpatrick. Back in college he created LiveJournal to share information with his friends. It has evolved into a significant Internet phenomenon, which is currently considered to be a prototype of social networks (Ellison). LiveJournal was the first Internet platform that implemented such elements as polls, friends lists, ability to post via phone or email.

One of the most popular languages used in Web programming was invented by Brendan Eich. It is well-known to the Internet community as JavaScript. Currently the implementation of this script is not limited by the Web and JavaScript is widely used both in the creation of desktop applications and creation of computer games.

The significance of Internet

After the invention of the World Wide Web the role of Internet kept growing. It is more popular than any other technology used in the modern world. Currently not only the majority of devices used in business and everyday life have Internet access (for example, cell phones), but also there are devices, like netbooks, which were created with the main purpose to give their users access to the Internet. This fact alone shows the outstanding role of Internet and World Wide Web. There are some major reasons that make this invention of the 20th century so remarkable: access to information, no significant financial requirements, and freedom of online communication.

Internet gives its’ users to access any type of information. Except some cases, like Chinese state-level Internet limitations, the user can learn almost anything while browsing the web. It includes latest news, historical references, literature, videos etc. Special informational resources, such as Wikipedia, are created to make this access to information as easy as possible.

One does not have to make significant financial contributions to gain access to the Internet. Of course, currently there are various forms of payments a person has to make, for example, to purchase a laptop/cell phone with Internet access, or to visit a place where one can /pay for an hour of Internet. At the same time, numerous places with free WiFi and small prices one has to pay to get access in Internet spots make the network affordable to almost everyone.

Lastly, Internet may be the last place that allows freedom to its’ users. It  is both freedom of expression and information. Even though there is already legislation trying to control hazardous information or information that can have negative influence on the most vulnerable groups of population (children), Internet still remains the place with the least limitations. Online one can be whoever s/he wants, as well as do whatever possible.

Conclusion

Internet has a long but intense history. Fist ideas of a network connecting computers dates back to the late 1960s. it was shortly implemented in Europe and America, with APRANET being the most successful example of an inter-computer network. With the invention of TCP/IP by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn it became possible to connect computers from different networks, which led to the creation of Internet. It gained popularity with the invention of World Wide Web by Tim Barns-Lee in early 1990s. Since then Internet kept on developing. Various browsers were introduces, as well as other functions of the system, which altogether helped the Internet to enter the everyday life of all citizens. The freedom of informational access and the rapidly growing functions of the network made Internet the global structure that people use today.

References:

  • Gromov, Gregory. Roads and Crossroads of the Internet History. 2012. Web. 13 June 2013.
  • Ellison, Nicole B. "Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13.1 (2007): 210-230.
  • Leiner, Barry M., et al. "A brief history of the Internet." ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review 39.5 (2009): 22-31.
  • Salus, Peter H., and G. Vinton. Casting the Net: From ARPANET to Internet and Beyond... Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc., 1995.
  • Wegter, Wobbe. Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee. 2010. Web. 13 June 2013.
  • Zakon, Robert H. Hobbes' Internet Timeline. Robert H. Zakon., 2000.

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