The Evolution of the Internet

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By jwblackwell



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Overview of the History of the Internet:

  • The Internet Protocol Suite, used to communicate between networks and devices, arose from research and development in the US and involved international collaboration, particularly with researchers in the UK and France.
  • The concept of time-sharing between computer users began in the late 1950s, and by the early 1960s, researchers proposed a distributed network based on data message blocks and packet switching.
  • ARPANET was the first network to adopt packet switching technology, developed by Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, which included Bob Kahn.
  • In the 1970s, several packet-switched networks emerged, leading to the development of various standards and protocols for internetworking, which led to the TCP and IP protocols of the Internet protocol suite.
  • In 1986, the National Science Foundation funded national supercomputing centers at several universities in the US, and provided interconnectivity with the NSFNET project, creating network access to these supercomputer sites for research and academic organizations in the US.
  • Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) emerged in 1989 in the US and Australia, and the ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990.
  • In 1989-90, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland developed the World Wide Web, linking hypertext documents into an information system, accessible from any node on the network.
  • The advent of wave division multiplexing (WDM) and the roll-out of fiber optic cables in the mid-1990s revolutionized communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, video chat, and the World Wide Web.
  • By 2019, increasing amounts of data were transmitted at higher and higher speeds over fiber-optic networks operating at 1 Gbit/s, 10 Gbit/s, and 800 Gbit/s.
  • The Internet's global communication landscape grew rapidly, communicating 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunications networks in 1993, 51% by 2000, and more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007.
  • The future of the global network may be shaped by regional differences.
  • Early computers in the 1940s had a central processing unit and user terminals, and by the 1950s, new systems were devised to allow communication over longer distances or with higher speed necessary for the mainframe computer model.
  • The earliest computers were connected directly to terminals used by an individual user, and Christopher Strachey filed a patent application for time-sharing in February 1959.
  • Packet switching was developed in the 1960s, and the NPL and ARPANET were the first two networks in the world to use packet switching.
  • The Merit Network was formed in 1966 to explore computer networking between three of Michigan's public universities to help the state's educational and economic development.The history of the internet is traced from the development of early packet switching networks such as CYCLADES and X.25, which were designed to explore alternatives to ARPANET and support internetworking research. Public data networks such as Telenet and CompuServe used X.25 to multiplex the terminal sessions into their packet-switched backbones and offer electronic mail capabilities. The development of Usenet, UUCP, and CSNET in the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed for the rapid expansion of UUCP hosts forwarding on the Usenet news. The development of the TCP/IP protocol in the mid-1970s initiated by Louis Pouzin and Bob Kahn of DARPA was a fundamental reformulation that used a common internetwork protocol to unify different network methods. The creation of NSFNET in 1986 provided a 56kbit/s backbone to support the NSF-sponsored supercomputing centers and allowed for the connection of university and college campus networks to regional networks. The existence of NSFNET and the creation of Federal Internet Exchanges (FIXes) allowed ARPANET to be decommissioned in 1990. The development of wave division multiplexing (WDM) allowed for the mass capacity of dense WDM systems on the Sprint fiber network in 1996, which marked the real start of optical networking.The development of optical networking was based on fiber optic cables powered by lasers and optical amplifier techniques, with the first working laser created in 1960 using light amplification through stimulated emission of radiation. By the early 1980s, optical networks powered by lasers, LED, and optical amplifier equipment were used by select universities and long-distance telephone providers.

TCP/IP went global in the 1980s with the establishment of the Computer Science Network (CSNET) in 1981 to provide networking connections to institutions that could not connect directly to ARPANET. CERN began installation and operation of TCP/IP between 1984 and 1988, and CERN TCP/IP intranets remained isolated from the Internet until 1989. The United Kingdom's national research and education network (NREN), JANET, began operation in 1984 using the UK's Coloured Book protocols and connected to NSFNET in 1989. The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), headquartered in Australia, manages IP address allocation for the continent.

While developed countries with technological infrastructures were joining the Internet, developing countries began to experience a digital divide separating them from the Internet. In August 1995, Africa's first native TCP/IP high-speed satellite Internet services were established, and a USAID-funded project, the Leland Initiative, started work on developing full Internet connectivity for the continent. In South Korea, VDSL, a last mile technology developed in the 1990s, connected corporate and consumer copper-based telephone lines to the Internet.

During the late 1980s, the first Internet service provider (ISP) companies were formed, including PSINet, UUNET, Netcom, and Portal Software, to provide service to the regional research networks and provide alternate network access, UUCP-based email and Usenet News to the public. The final restrictions on carrying commercial traffic on the Internet ended on April 30, 1995, when the National Science Foundation ended its sponsorship of the NSFNET Backbone Service.

The invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, as an application on the Internet, brought many social and commercial uses to what was, at the time, a network of networks for academic and research institutions. The Web opened to the public in 1991 and began to enter general use in 1993-4, when websites for everyday use started to become available.

During the first decade or so of the public Internet, the immense changes it would eventually enable in the 2000s were still nascent. In terms of providing context for this period, mobile cellular devices ("smartphones" and other cellular devices) which today provide near-universal access, were used for business and not a routine household item owned by parents and children worldwide. Social media in the modern sense had yet to come into existence, laptops were bulky and most households did not have computers.The Evolution of the Internet

  • The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.
  • In the early 2000s, enabling technologies such as PHP, modern JavaScript, and Java, AJAX, HTML 4, and various software frameworks simplified and sped up web development.
  • The Internet was widely used for mailing lists, emails, e-commerce, online forums and bulletin boards, and personal websites and blogs, but lacked widespread social engagement and interactivity.
  • The period from 1997 to 2001 saw the first speculative investment bubble related to the Internet, followed by a market crash, but the enthusiasm and growth quickly recovered and continued to grow.
  • The last available IPv4 address was assigned in January 2011, and it is being replaced by IPv6, which uses 128-bit addresses and provides a vastly increased address space.
  • Web 2.0 is a term used to describe websites that emphasize user-generated content, usability, and interoperability.
  • Mobile devices greatly accelerated and transformed the Internet during the period of 2005 to 2010, with the emergence of location-based services, mobile-targeted websites, and the "App store."
  • The first Internet link into low Earth orbit was established on January 22, 2010, and communication with spacecraft beyond Earth orbit has been ongoing since March 2009, using the Delay-tolerant networking protocol.
  • The Internet operates without a central governing body, but the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) oversees the allocation and assignment of various technical identifiers, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) provides oversight and coordination for the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System.
  • The IANA function was originally performed by the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and delegated portions of this responsibility to the Network Information Center (NIC) at Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) in Menlo Park, California.
  • The InterNIC was created in 1993 to manage the allocations of addresses and management of the address databases, and registration services were provided by Network Solutions.
  • The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) was established in December 1997, and in 1998, both the IANA and remaining DNS-related InterNIC functions were reorganized under the control of ICANN.
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the largest and most visible of several loosely related ad-hoc groups that provide technical direction for the Internet, including the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).


Take this quiz to test your knowledge of the history and evolution of the internet, from its early beginnings as a research project to its current status as a global communication network. Learn about key milestones, technological advancements, and the impact of the internet on society and culture. Challenge yourself to see how much you know about the development of the World Wide Web, the emergence of social media, and the future of the internet. Perfect for tech enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone curious about the fascinating evolution of the

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