Internet History

The basis for the modern Internet was clearly documented in April 1963 by J C R Licklider, director of the Behavioral Sciences Command & Control Research at ARPA, in a memorandum to his colleagues which described an "Intergalactic Computer Network" (and was notably addressed to "Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network".) See

In October 1963, Licklider convinced Bob Taylor and Ivan Sutherland at ARPA that the concept was worth exploring. Arguably, Taylor's recognition that it would be better to have one general-purpose computer terminal that connects to any computer, instead of having a system-specific terminal for each computer, was the basis for the implementation of ARPANET which later became the Internet. See

Whilst some unsubstantiated claims have been made that the name "Internet" was coined in 1988, it's not difficult to see that "Internet" was a trivial shortening of "Intergalactic Computer Network", and anecdotally the term "Internet" -- which may simply have referred to "internetworking", an established technical term -- was already in use at ARPA in the early 1970s. It was certainly in regular "official" use by 1985. In 1988, Robert Tappan Morris's "Internet worm" was widely reported in the press (though only sometimes described using the term "Internet"), making it likely that this was the first time the already-established term "Internet" entered general public use.

People sometimes think that the Internet and the World Wide Web appeared very abruptly out of nowhere, but actually lots of others saw it coming, there's no ambiguity about that. DougEngelbart demonstrated something in 1968! John Brunner's brilliant SF novel "Shockwave Rider" (1975) had such a net as part of the background of the future. Asimov had the galactic computer (which read your mind -- no hyper links), Douglas Adams had the Encyclopedia Galactica (type in a subject -- no links), and thousands of other examples.''

ON Technology (founded by Mitch Kapor and Peter Miller, with Bill Wood and Tom Stambaugh as first employees, funded by John Doerr and others) was promoting stuff in 1988. Compuserve was widely known in the industry in 1989. We used "Compuserve Navigator"(dialer/terminal), through dialup lines, to download bulletin board text and discussions. Arpanet had been accessible for Digital employees since the late 1970's (via dialup access to decnet, and outbound from there). America Online and Prodigy were both around. Ethernet and IP addressing for local area nets had become commonplace since the mid 80's. Note: BBS from late 1970s, Usenet began in 1979 and booming with version B in 1982 (see e.g. -- dm

An important step forward in internet history is this paper: End-to-End Arguments in System Design. Jerome H. Saltzer, David P. Reed, and David D. Clark. Second International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (April, 1981) pages 509-512

In the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, BBSes that one dialed up to were far more common than Arpanet/Internet sites. Some sites did so through the Arpanet/Internet, but that was limited until a policy change in the late 1980s. And then there's Usenet.

Before ISPs existed the only connectivity option for private individuals outside the military and academic fields was to dial-in through BBSs that had internet connectivity, and even then the BBSs could usually only provide SMTP connectivity as an extension of the BBS mail. Although frustrating this was an immensely powerful process at the time, due to the availability of services like FtpMail?.

There was also FidoNet.

The Internet originated in 1969, then called ARPANET. The key protocol was of course Internet Protocol: IP, see also TCP and UDP. On top of that were layered ftp, telnet, SMTP for email, and many other things. The World Wide Web that TimBernersLee created was just one more protocol for the Internet, and it could not have happened if the Internet hadn't already exploded.

A brief list of important Internet protocols before HTTP, compiled from IAB and IETF documents.

Not surprisingly, the top seven are indispensable (except UDP) for the correct operation of the WWW, too. Even UDP is indispensable, because DNS packets are UDP (for the most part).

Credits for inventing the Internet include: VintCerf, the late JohnPostel?, DavidCrocker, JoyceReynolds?, PaulMockapetris?. At that time, (before 1982) they worked at places like UCLA, MIT, USC/Information Sciences Institute, and Bolt, Beranek and Newman. All this can be found out with a little basic research, however. What might be interesting for this wiki is how the infrastructure (protocols and people) emerged and organized itself in the earliest days.

The IP concept

The "IP concept" is that each machine is identified by an "IP Address". The "Internet Packet Protocol" allows messages among machines to be comprised of a series of packets that can be delivered in random order and reassembled into a complete message by the receiver. The question of how a particular file (or other resource) is identified, packaged, and vended has nothing to do with IP addressing.''

''There are lots of histories on the web, but briefly, it was the creation of Mosaic at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), that incorporated HTTP as well as the other popular protocols (telnet, ftp, gopher) that caused the boom.

There used to be a page at NCSA listing "new sites added to the www" that I used to follow, actually looking at each new web site. Very soon after I discovered this, exponential growth caused it to be literally impossible to look at every site added to the web. Who adopted them? Millions of people who downloaded Mosaic from NCSA. -- dm''

The "Internet" (which means a network which connects together many networks) was a DOD project. They funded the development from something like 1968 through the 1980s. Early on it was called the Arpanet, which did not originally use the now-standard TcpIp protocol. It was their funding that paid for BBN to prototype the first TCP/IP stack, and it was again DOD funding that paid for UCB to create a standard TCP/IP stack for CalBerkeley Unix in the early 1980s. The first TCP/IP stack for personal computers was MIT's PC/IP, quickly followed by the popular KA9Q NOS, originally authored by PhilKarn? as an ethernet solution for two computers connected by amateur radio equipment.

The Web is not the Internet. The Internet is older than the Web, and the Web even now runs on top of the Internet. And if RK has his way, the Web may someday go away, and be replaced by something else...but that something else would still be running on top of the Internet.

What NCSA did was develop the second (I think) HTML browser, Mosaic, after Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML and HTTP. That's all they did. Netscape commercialized the browser. Microsoft eventually bought the rights to Mosaic and transformed it into Internet Explorer.


So Netscape was not the first browser

Even Mosaic wasn't the first browser. The first browser (but see comments about text-mode browser) was just called WorldWideWeb, and was written in ObjectiveCee for the NeXT. An interesting triumph of object-oriented programming, by the way. As TimBernersLee writes "I just had to add hypertext, (by subclassing the Text object)"

What are you talking about? The first browser was the text-mode browser that you could access by telneting into a certain node and that gave you documents one pageful at a time, enabling you to pick a link by number or --more-- by enter True enough, the text-mode browser was the real first one. Some people outside of CERN even got the source and gave it a whirl.

MosaicBrowser?, written later at UIUC/NSCA, was commercialized by one of the authors, MarcAndreessen at NetscapeCorporation?.

[Wow! Mosaic was incorporated in Windows and commercialized as Netscape! Couldn't be!]

Yes and no. A different branch off the Mosaic code, a browser built by Spyglass, Inc, became InternetExplorer. Microsoft bought the product from Spyglass. The rumor persists that the price MS paid was a royalty to Spyglass developers to be paid for every retail copy of IE sold. Why couldn't Microsoft just write their own browser from scratch? To understand that, look at the history of just about every popular Microsoft product, with a few important exceptions.

TimBernersLee's book WeavingTheWeb answers most of your questions, and is an entertaining read to boot.


The first record of the idea of linking any word in any document to any other document was probably VannevarBush's "AsWeMayThink", published in 1945. TedNelson built on Bush's ideas and coined the word "hypertext" in 1965. (no ref?) This concept didn't make the internet possible. The internet existed before the WorldWideWeb. Instead, the WorldWideWeb made the internet accessible and interesting to a much wider audience. -- EricHodges

[Wiki is simply a program designed to create and to edit links easily. A sort of easy links creator system. -- ar]


Clearing the misunderstanding

The idea of accessing any resource from anywhere else on a network is at least as old as the Digital Equipment Corporation's "Decnet", which I used in 1974. I suspect they're much older than that. It is based on a path specifier that uses a "hostname" (a unique identifier of a specific machine) as its highest-level specifier. Arpanet extended this to wide area networks decades before TBL's contributions. Exciting or not, this "revolution" just doesn't have anything to do with HTML or the web.

I simply wanted to know if this concept of independent web pages had been in existence as early as 1990.

Yes. Unambiguously yes. When I heard about WWW, I didn't say "what a great idea", I said "ah, finally", and I certainly wasn't the only one. Although I had to see it in operation before I was sure; there had been false alarms on hyperlinks before. And many of us (not just Ted Nelson and RK) are disappointed that the WWW doesn't fully realize the old dream, for a variety of mis-design reasons.

A Wiki creates (dynamically) a link from a WikiName to a corresponding URI of a "resource". This resource may be anything, not just a "file". As the above contributor observed, we don't "enter" anything on the internet. We identify a house by something akin to its phone number, and we then request some information about the house. The owner of the house decides what will or will not be available.

Am I out of line if I point out that the Internet and the WorldWideWeb are not the same thing? -- GarryHamilton

Not at all, it's an important difference at times. On the other hand, it depends on the exact topic... to a user sitting at a browser exploring the web, operationally it sort of looks like the two are the same, as long as they don't think about e.g. email too hard at the same time. :-) Anyway, on this page, the two should be kept separate, but I myself probably misspoke somewhere up there. -- dm

Another interesting area of InternetHistory are the search engine antecedents like Gopher, WAIS, Archie and Veronica. Veronica in particular was revolutionary, in that it was a MetaSearch? mechanism for Gopher servers. Would anyone give up Google to go back to the GoodOldDays??

CategoryHistory CategoryInternet

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