In internet history, credit for the initial concept that developed into the World Wide Web is typically given to Leonard Kleinrock. In 1961, he wrote about ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet, in a paper entitled “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets.”
According to the journal Management and Business Review (opens in new tab) (MBR), Kleinrock, along with other innovators such as J.C.R. Licklider, the first director of the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO), provided the backbone for the ubiquitous stream of emails, media, Facebook postings and tweets that are now shared online every day.
The precursor to the internet was jumpstarted in the early days of the history of computers , in 1969 with the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), according to the journal American Scientist (opens in new tab). ARPA-funded researchers developed many of the protocols used for internet communication today. This timeline offers a brief history of the internet’s evolution:
Internet timeline: 1960s
1965: Two computers at MIT Lincoln Lab communicate with one another using packet-switching technology.
1968: Beranek and Newman, Inc. (BBN) unveils the final version of the Interface Message Processor (IMP) specifications. BBN wins ARPANET contract.
1969: On Oct. 29, UCLA’s Network Measurement Center, Stanford Research Institute (SRI), University of California-Santa Barbara and University of Utah install nodes. The first message is “LO,” which was an attempt by student Charles Kline to “LOGIN” to the SRI computer from the university. However, the message was unable to be completed because the SRI system crashed.
1972: BBN’s Ray Tomlinson introduces network email. The Internet Working Group (INWG) forms to address need for establishing standard protocols.
1973: Global networking becomes a reality as the University College of London (England) and Royal Radar Establishment (Norway) connect to ARPANET. The term internet is born.
1974: The first Internet Service Provider (ISP) is born with the introduction of a commercial version of ARPANET, known as Telenet.
1974: Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn (the duo said by many to be the Fathers of the Internet) publish “A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection,” which details the design of TCP.
1976: Queen Elizabeth II hits the “send button” on her first email.
1979: USENET forms to host news and discussion groups.
1981: The National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a grant to establish the Computer Science Network (CSNET) to provide networking services to university computer scientists.
1982: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), as the protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, emerge as the protocol for ARPANET. This results in the fledgling definition of the internet as connected TCP/IP internets. TCP/IP remains the standard protocol for the internet.
1983: The Domain Name System (DNS) establishes the familiar .edu, .gov, .com, .mil, .org, .net, and .int system for naming websites. This is easier to remember than the previous designation for websites, such as 123.456.789.10.
1984: William Gibson, author of “Neuromancer,” is the first to use the term “cyberspace.”
1985: Symbolics.com, the website for Symbolics Computer Corp. in Massachusetts, becomes the first registered domain.
1986: The National Science Foundation’s NSFNET goes online to connected supercomputer centers at 56,000 bits per second — the speed of a typical dial-up computer modem. Over time the network speeds up and regional research and education networks, supported in part by NSF, are connected to the NSFNET backbone — effectively expanding the Internet throughout the United States. The NSFNET was essentially a network of networks that connected academic users along with the ARPANET.
1987: The number of hosts on the internet exceeds 20,000. Cisco ships its first router.
1989: World.std.com becomes the first commercial provider of dial-up access to the internet.
1990: Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, develops HyperText Markup Language (HTML). This technology continues to have a large impact on how we navigate and view the internet today.
1991: CERN introduces the World Wide Web to the public.
1992: The first audio and video are distributed over the internet. The phrase “surfing the internet” is popularized.
1993: The number of websites reaches 600 and the White House and United Nations go online. Marc Andreesen develops the Mosaic Web browser at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. The number of computers connected to NSFNET grows from 2,000 in 1985 to more than 2 million in 1993. The National Science Foundation leads an effort to outline a new internet architecture that would support the burgeoning commercial use of the network.
1994: Netscape Communications is born. Microsoft creates a Web browser for Windows 95.
1994: Yahoo! is created by Jerry Yang and David Filo, two electrical engineering graduate students at Stanford University. The site was originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” The company was later incorporated in March 1995.
1995: Compuserve, America Online and Prodigy begin to provide internet access. Amazon.com, Craigslist and eBay go live. The original NSFNET backbone is decommissioned as the internet’s transformation to a commercial enterprise is largely completed.
1995: The first online dating site, Match.com, launches.
1996: The browser war, primarily between the two major players Microsoft and Netscape, heats up. CNET buys tv.com for $15,000.
1996: A 3D animation dubbed “The Dancing Baby (opens in new tab)” becomes one of the first viral videos.
1997: Netflix is founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph as a company that sends users DVDs by mail.
1997: PC makers can remove or hide Microsoft’s internet software on new versions of Windows 95, thanks to a settlement with the Justice Department. Netscape announces that its browser will be free.
1998: The Google search engine is born, changing the way users engage with the internet.
1998: The Internet Protocol version 6 introduced, to allow for future growth of Internet Addresses. The current most widely used protocol is version 4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses allowing for 4.3 billion unique addresses; IPv6, with 128-bit addresses, will allow 3.4 x 1038 unique addresses, or 340 trillion trillion trillion.
1999: AOL buys Netscape. Peer-to-peer file sharing becomes a reality as Napster arrives on the Internet, much to the displeasure of the music industry.
2000: The dot-com bubble bursts. Websites such as Yahoo! and eBay are hit by a large-scale denial of service attack, highlighting the vulnerability of the Internet. AOL merges with Time Warner
2001: A federal judge shuts down Napster, ruling that it must find a way to stop users from sharing copyrighted material before it can go back online.
2003: The SQL Slammer worm spread worldwide in just 10 minutes. Myspace, Skype and the Safari Web browser debut.
2003: The blog publishing platform WordPress is launched.
2004: Facebook goes online and the era of social networking begins. Mozilla unveils the Mozilla Firefox browser.
2005: YouTube.com launches. The social news site Reddit is also founded.
2006: AOL changes its business model, offering most services for free and relying on advertising to generate revenue. The Internet Governance Forum meets for the first time.
2006: Twitter launches. The company’s founder, Jack Dorsey, sends out the very first tweet: “just setting up my twttr.”
2009: The internet marks its 40th anniversary.
2010: Facebook reaches 400 million active users.
2010: The social media sites Pinterest and Instagram are launched.
2011: Twitter and Facebook play a large role in the Middle East revolts.
2012: President Barack Obama’s administration announces its opposition to major parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which would have enacted broad new rules requiring internet service providers to police copyrighted content. The successful push to stop the bill, involving technology companies such as Google and nonprofit organizations including Wikipedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is considered a victory for sites such as YouTube that depend on user-generated content, as well as “fair use” on the internet.
2013: Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, reveals that the NSA had in place a monitoring program capable of tapping the communications of thousands of people, including U.S. citizens.
2013: Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults report that they bank online, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
2015: Instagram, the photo-sharing site, reaches 400 million users, outpacing Twitter, which would go on to reach 316 million users by the middle of the same year.
2016: Google unveils Google Assistant, a voice-activated personal assistant program, marking the entry of the internet giant into the “smart” computerized assistant marketplace. Google joins Amazon’s Alexa, Siri from Apple, and Cortana from Microsoft.
2018: There is a significant rise in internet-enabled devices. An increase in the Internet of Things (IoT) sees around seven billion devices by the end of the year.
2019: Fifth–generation (5G) networks are launched, enabling speedier internet connection on some wireless devices.
2021: By January 2021, there are 4.66 billion people connected to the internet. This is more than half of the global population.
2022: Low–Earth orbit satellite internet is closer to reality. By early January 2022, SpaceX launches more than 1,900 Starlink satellites overall. The constellation is now providing broadband service in select areas around the world.
To find out more about the SpaceX satellite internet project, you can watch this video (opens in new tab) about the mission. Additionally, to read an interview with Leonard Kleinrock, visit the Communications of the ACM website (opens in new tab).