The internet has become an inexpendable part of our lives, as it plays a significant role in all the life’s aspects, from interpersonal communication to economy and politics. While it might often seem that the Internet has been around forever, and people often forget what the life had been like before, its omnipresence started a relatively short time ago, in the 1990s. Here the evolution of the Internet, from its inception in the 1960 till its rapid growth in the 1990s and 2000s will be overviewed.
The roots of the Internet go back to the Cold War period. After the Soviet Union has launched its Sputnik in 1957, the US has created ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency) whose mission was to lead the country’s technological progress. This very institution has a direct relevance to the inception of the idea of a “Galactic Network”, a global communication network that would serve a number of purposes — public defense was one of them. In 1968, ARPA signed a contract with BBN, a high-tech company in the USA that conducts technology-related research and provides development services. The latter has started working on building the first network.
The birth of the proto-Internet (the first switched network) occurred in 1969, when BBN connected four nodes located in universities (Stanford, University of Utah, University of California at Santa Barbara, and UCLA). That network was comprised of the 50 Kbps circuits. A year later, BBN has created the first public switched network run by its subsidiary company Telenet. Two more years later, in 1972, the first email program was developed by Ray Tomlinson who chose the @ symbol to mean the username and a certain address. That same year, the first network protocol (NCP) was introduced to enable communications between computers within the same network. A year later, a new protocol, TCP/IP was created to allow the communication between computers that ran on different networks. After ten more years, in 1983, TCP/IP became the main protocol which entirely replaced NCP.
The term “Internet” emerged in 1974. It belongs to Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, researchers who previously published the TCP protocol. Two years after, Dr Robert M Metcalfe, then a Harvard student, developed Ethernet. The 1970s set the foundation of the Internet’s technological component with its main principles solidified. Thus, in 1976, the world saw the SATNET (Atlantic packet Satellite network) which allowed to link the US and Europe. What is most important, the satellites used belonged to no country in particular, which made the network truly decentralized. In 1983, it became possible to use domain addresses with IP addresses assigned automatically. This relieved the early Internet adopters of the necessity to remember numerical IP addresses.
As for the user part of the Internet, it was rapidly evolving in the 1990s. Thus, in 1990, the first search engine (Archie) was introduced by McGill University, and the hypertext system was created at CERN. In 1993, the first Mosaic web browser was released (later it became the Netscape browser), and in 1995 — the first Internet Explorer by Microsoft. In 2002-2003, IE was the most used web browser responsible for 95% searches. Its popularity has declined significantly only after the Firefox release in 2004 and Google Chrome in 2008. The introduction of browsers had allowed ordinary users to access the web and perform searches, and, since 1994, make first Internet orders (pioneered by Pizza Hut) and create bank accounts (First Virtual in California).
The further evolution of the Internet is associated mostly with mobile devices and wireless technologies. Thus, with the introduction and standardization of Wi-Fi (802.11b) in 1999, the rapid growth of Internet-connected mobile devices was observed. By 2014, users who had accessed the Internet via mobile outnumbered the ones with desktop access. Now, in 2016, there are over 3.3 billion Internet users in the world, and this number continues to grow progressively, especially among the mobile users due to higher accessibility of such devices.
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