The Internet and World Wide Web are the greatest telecommunicational
breakthrough since the telephone. The enormous
growth that the web has enjoyed in the last decade
has come very quickly to a system still in its
relative infancy. Let's take a look back at how
it came about...
How the Internet came about
The foundations of the Internet were formed when
packet-switching networks came into operation
in the 1960s. Transmitted data is broken up into
small packets of data, sent to its destination,
and reassembled at the other side. This means
that a single signal can be routed to multiple
users, and an interrupted packet may be re-sent
without loss of transmission. Packets can be compressed
for speed and encrypted for security.
Computers at the time were massive, primitive
structures. The only type of network in operation
before was made up of terminals that logged into
mainframes. This is similar to the present-day
client/server relationship we have with the modern
Internet, except the computers are usually comparable
in terms of power, and so the Internet is known
as a peer-to-peer system.
ARPANET and onwards
Early packet-switching networks were set up in
Europe. Development of a similar system began
in America in 1968, and went into operation the
year after in the US Defence Department's Advanced
Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The ARPANET used
Network Control Protocol as its transmission protocol
from 1969 to 1982, when NCP was replaced with
the now-widespread TCP/IP.
Now that the technology was in place, strategies
were put forth on what to do with it. Eventually,
the first large-scale Internet was created —
a set of interconnected US military computers.
The idea was, if an attack was laid down on one
part of the system, the rest of the system would
still be operational enough to blow the hell out
of whoever was attacking the country. Alternatively,
losing the mainframe in a centralised system would
spell disaster. This was during the height of
the Cold War, and the inevitable nuclear war looked
very close to happening.
Services like E-mail found their first usage through
the ARPANET system, and its obvious benefits were
lauded by all who participated. The popular bulletin-board
system, Usenet was developed between the 70s and
80s. Around this stage all of the main universities
in the US were connected to the network and used
it for transmitting experimental data and educational
resources. It was found to be an excellent method
of sharing information. In 1973 the first international
(and indeed intercontinental) connection was made
to the University College of London in England.
The rise of USENET
USENET contributed more than anything else to
the way the Internet began to take off. The spirit
of information sharing and discussion that is
the hallmark of the net was encapsulated in this
system. Usenet is considered to have begun in
1979, and went through a few revisions. In an
early triumph for freedom of speech, the restrictions
on taboo subjects like recreational drugs were
circumvented by independent people setting up
their own servers and hosting discussions there
instead of on the main ARPANET servers, where
this was forbidden. New transmission methods were
developed, the standard becoming NNTP (Net News
Transfer Protocol), which is still in use today.
The introduction of personal computers in the
late 70s brought a large new audience to the developing
Internet. They used e-mail and participated in
discussions on networks like Usenet, Bitnet and
Fidonet, which eventually were all joined together.
The Internet was growing exponentially. IRC (Internet
Relay Chat) became available in 1988 and communities
formed in rooms.
World-Wide Web unleashed
It was only in 1991 that what we now call the
World-Wide Web was introduced, developed by Mr.
» Tim Berners-Lee, with assistance from
Robert Caillau (while both were working at »
CERN. Tim's now a member of the » W3C).
Tim saw the need for a standard linked information
system accessible across the range of different
computers in use. It had to be simple so that
it could work on both dumb terminals and high-end
graphical X-Window platforms. He got some pages
up and was able to access them with his 'browser'.
Quickly researchers got interested and started
designing web sites and browsers. In 1993 the
first proper web-browser, Mosaic, took the Internet
by storm; having been developed at the National
Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA).
As soon as it was ported to PCs and Macs it immediately
effected a boom in web usage.
Quickly services were set up for domain registration
and sites began turning up on the web, running
on very basic HTML. Even at this stage, malicious
viruses and worms were infiltrating computers
connected to the Internet. The web had an incredible
341, 634% annual growth rate. Important sites
like the White House and Pizza Hut appeared. Online
shopping sites showed up. The www was quickly
the most popular service on the Internet. It was
around 1995 when the first large ISPs like AOL
and CompuServe began offering Internet access
to the masses. Technology like Sun's Java and
search engines are released. The somewhat legendary
browser war was in full swing between Netscape
and Microsoft, with new browser releases coming
every month and the web becoming increasingly
fragmented. Despite this, the public's enthusiasm
for the Internet went unbridled.
Now the year 2002, the web is still growing at
an amazing rate. Technology has improved considerably,
and the web is regarded as an indispensable tool
for education, business and entertainment. There
are billions of pages on the web, with thousands
more being added every hour. The Internet is a
system that is nigh-on impossible to destroy,
and looks set to become an ever-larger influence
on the world in the future.
If you require more information,
to notify one of our team members.